Explorer: I Found La Salle's Ship in Lake Michigan

Hopes to get permission to excavate, prove it's 17th-century vessel
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 24, 2014 7:25 PM CDT
Explorer: I Found La Salle's Ship in Lake Michigan
In this 2013 file photo, Steve Libert speaks on a fishing boat as dive teams prepare to inspect a site in northern Lake Michigan.   (AP Photo/John Flesher, File)

A 17th-century ship called the Griffin has long eluded shipwreck hunters, but one especially persistent hunter thinks he's finally found the vessel that belonged to French explorer La Salle. Steve Libert tells AP that he is "99.9% sure" that he and his team have spotted the ship, or what's left of it, about 50 feet below the surface of Lake Michigan near Poverty Island. They say an area about the size of a football field is strewn with old wooden planks, nails, pegs, and what may be parts of the ship's mast. Libert admits he's got no "smoking gun" yet, but he hopes to obtain the necessary permits to conduct a thorough examination in September with French archaeologists.

One of the those French experts would say only that the new finds are "encouraging." (In its writeup of the development, PBS quotes a stat that 6,000 ships have gone down in the Great Lakes.) An expedition last year turned up a large wooden slab about 120 feet from Libert's new search site, but it remains unclear whether it belongs to the Griffin. La Salle wasn't on the ship when it went down on its maiden voyage in 1679. One of its claims to fame is that it's believed to be the first European-designed ship to ply the Great Lakes, if only briefly. (Elsewhere, another expedition team thinks it's found Columbus' Santa Maria.)

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