In Shipwreck Hunt, a Crucial Finding

Wooden beam in Lake Michigan apparently there for centuries

By Newser Editors and Wire Services

Posted Jun 19, 2013 9:02 AM CDT

(Newser) – A wooden beam embedded at the bottom of northern Lake Michigan appears to have been there for centuries, underwater archaeologists announced yesterday, a crucial finding as crews dig toward what they hope is the carcass of a French ship that disappeared in the 17th century. Expedition leaders still weren't ready to declare they had found the long-lost Griffin, but Michel L'Hour, director of France's Department of Underwater Archaeological Research, says the timber appears to be a bowsprit (a spur or pole that extends from a vessel's stem) that "has been buried in the sediment of the lake for many centuries."

L'Hour, who dove to inspect the beam with two French colleagues Monday and yesterday, adds that it seems to be attached to another structure below the lake bed. Commercial divers overseen by scientists last week began excavating at the base of the wooden beam, which extends 10.5 feet above the lake bed, and underwater excavators were opening a pit at the base of the post to determine whether it's affixed to anything beneath. In another key development yesterday, they reported that a probing device had detected a hard surface 18 to 20 feet below the lake bed. It could be a ship's hull or deck. It probably will take another day or two to widen the hole and reach the hard surface. Click for more on the mystery.

In this photo made June 16, 2013, and provided by Great Lakes Exploation Group, diver Jim Nowka of Great Lakes Exploration Group inspects a wooden beam extending from the floor of Lake Michigan.
In this photo made June 16, 2013, and provided by Great Lakes Exploation Group, diver Jim Nowka of Great Lakes Exploration Group inspects a wooden beam extending from the floor of Lake Michigan.   (David J. Ruck)
French underwater archaeologist Olivia Hulot jots notes while inspecting a timber jutting from the bottom of northern Lake Michigan that experts believe could be part of the long-lost ship the Griffin.
French underwater archaeologist Olivia Hulot jots notes while inspecting a timber jutting from the bottom of northern Lake Michigan that experts believe could be part of the long-lost ship the Griffin.   (Chris Doyal)
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