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In pursuit of the oldest Great Lakes wreck in the US

Le Griffon, is a remarkable ship whose history is shrouded in mystery. It is often referred to as the ‘holy grail’ of wreck seekers from the Great Lakes region in the northern USA. On its maiden voyage, the “Griffon” set sail on 7 August 1679, becoming the first full-size sailing ship sailing in those waters.
Published: December 27, 2011 - 11:19
Updated: July 22, 2023 - 06:32
In pursuit of the oldest Great Lakes wreck in the US

Le-griffon

Le Griffon, is a remarkable ship whose history is shrouded in mystery. It is often referred to as the ‘holy grail’ of wreck seekers from the Great Lakes region in the northern USA. On its maiden voyage, the “Griffon” set sail on 7 August 1679, becoming the first full-size sailing ship sailing in those waters.

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The ship was built by the French explorer Rene-Robert Cavelier – Pan de La Salle, and was to be used to find the north-western route to China and Japan. Together with the missionary and explorer Father Louis Hennepin and 32 crew members, the explorers set off across Lakes Erie, Huron and Michigan to areas where only Indian canoes had previously sailed. La Salle, disembarked, sending the sailing vessel in the direction of Niagara. On the way back from Green Bay, Wisconsin, the ship disappeared with 6 crew members and a cargo of furs.

Father Hennepin wrote that Le Griffon was lost in a violent storm, but theories and conjecture abounded. Some blamed the destruction of the craft, fur traders and even the Jesuits. Others spoke of an attack by Indians who launched a boarding party and later burned the ‘Griffon’. La Salle, on the other hand, was convinced that the treacherous pilot and crew had sunk the ship and escaped with its cargo. Unfortunately, to date, no confirmation has been found for any of these theories.

Many times after a wreck was found in the area, it was suggested that it was the legendary Le Griffon, but no evidence has ever been found to unequivocally confirm this.

The same is true of the recently discovered wreck, buried at the bottom of Lake Michigan. While still lacking evidence to confirm that it is the ‘Griffin’, there has been enough of it to obtain permits and funding for further exploration of the site, which may be able to shed some more light on the whole story.

We have not been able to find conclusive proof that the wreck found is Le Griffon. However, further research may bring further information,” said Ken Vrana, director of the Centre for Maritime Affairs and Underwater Resource Management in Laingsburg.

So far, surveys have been conducted using a non-invasive method, using sonar and creating very detailed bottom profiles. The explorers hope that, in consultation with the authorities, other surveys can also be carried out.

Source: freep.com

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