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Shore dive near Washington Island in Lake Michigan.

A Passion for Exploration

Steve Libert, president of Great Lakes Exploration Group, LLC., is on record as being “obsessed” with exploration. Libert has spent 28 years researching and studying the history of Le Griffon, the first European-owned vessel to sail the upper Great Lakes. He is driven by the prospect of finding a vital part of our country’s history.

History and legendary tales have inspired Libert’s imagination. His main drive is to unravel the truth of the events from the mysteries and legends that have come down to us. “I’m a researcher at heart, not a historian,” Libert admits.

It hasn’t been an easy ride for Libert. His determination is characteristic of what it takes to be an explorer, whether exploring a new frontier in the New World in 1679 or in the 21st century. In any event, both explorers would probably say that their stories are similar in many ways – much money is spent and many obstacles are encountered on the way to the most meaningful discoveries.

"Human progress depends on exploration and discovery,” says Libert. “And I think individual explorers still have an important role to play.”

About Le Griffon

Le Griffon (Griffin in English) was the first European vessel to sail the Upper Great Lakes - and the first of upwards of 8000 shipwrecks in those waters as well. Built by the legendary French explorer, Rene-Robert Cavalier, Sieur de La Salle, Le Griffon was an integral part of La Salle's supply line between Niagara and Illinois. Le Griffon was intended to support La Salle's expedition in search of the mouth of the Mississippi River.

September 18, 1679, was the return maiden voyage of Le Griffon. Le Griffon's mission was to transport men and supplies with which La Salle could build a second vessel and a fort to support continued exploration of the Mississippi River. The vessel carrying a captain, a crew of five, and a small cargo of furs, sailed out from present day Washington Harbor on Washington Island in northern Lake Michigan into the mists of history, never to be seen again. Until, that is, the summer of 2001 when Steve Libert, president of Great Lakes Exploration located what may be the ruins of a shipwreck.

During a routine dive, Libert discovered something protruding from the murky lake floor. Subsequent inspection suggested that this might be the bowsprit of a ship... and a very old one. Libert, who has spent 28 years researching the history of Le Griffon, believes that he may have found the historic Griffon.

About Great Lakes Exploration Group

Libert believed he had happened on a promising find, possibly of historic proportions. He formed the Great Lakes Exploration Group with the vision and purpose of identifying, protecting and preserving this potentially rare piece of North American history.

Since the 2001 finding, Libert and the Great Lakes Exploration Group have worked steadily with professional archeologists and historians in conducting preliminary studies of the wreck in situ. Libert intends to take every possible step to maintain the finding's archaeological and historic importance.

With the announcement in July, 2010, of a unique partnership between the Great Lakes Exploration Group, the state of Michigan, and the Republic of France, the way has been cleared for a truly cooperative public/private venture that will protect the scientific and historical value of the shipwreck.

Expedition Outreach:

Great Lakes designed this web site to reach out to experts, academia, other explorers and the public at large. The web site will chronicle the ongoing expedition of the Great Lakes Exploration Group - not to confirm or claim that Le Griffon has been positively identified. We will use this site to inform the public and education institutions of existing research and test analysis. We want to give all interested parties an opportunity to stay informed and participate in the exploration.

Rene-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle: Explorer
Building Le Griffon (Hennepin, 1704)
Father Hennepin's Diary