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. (Read more The Griffin stories.)