I: Discovery and Survey: 2001 - 2009
The first phase of Great Lakes Exploration’s quest for Le Griffon has been accomplished with the discovery of a promising wreck in northern Lake Michigan. With the June, 2010 agreement between Great Lakes Exploration, the Republic of France, and the State of Michigan, the way has been cleared for further exploration of the shipwreck site. The goal, to make a positive identification of the vessel.
Archeological Site Assessment: 2009 - 2010
Phase II of the project is an archeological site assessment. “We can confidently say it’s an archeological site based on the Phase I survey work that’s been completed,” says CMURM’s Vrana. “There’s no question that there’s something of a cultural nature both on the surface and buried beneath the sediments.”
The challenge, Vrana explains, is to identify the nature of the finding. In Phase II, the team, led by CMURM, will attempt to identify the time period, the type of vessel, the affiliation, e.g., French or British, and other identifying features of the wreck site.
For this purpose, less intrusive, remote sensing techniques will be used. The team will use high resolution acoustic imaging tools to remotely sense and characterize the surface of the submerged lands or bottomlands and what might be buried within the sediments. The two main acoustic tools will be a High Resolution Sector Scanning Sonar and a Sub-bottom Profiler.
In addition, CMURM may get access to an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) with digital camera systems to create a photomosaic of the area.
“We’ll have all of this wonderful imagery,” says Vrana. “I don’t know of a site in the Michigan Great Lakes that will have this level of site documentation. So, that’s pretty exciting.”
After collecting and analyzing the imagery, the team will determine what features or targets need “ground truthing,” that is, eyeballing. Scientific and operational divers will go in the water with camera equipment and underwater notepads for features and targets that the team wants to verify.
Vrana cautions, however, that even with all of these techniques there may be no “smoking gun” that definitively identifies the vessel. “It is more likely to be a matter of developing all of the circumstantial evidence to make that interpretation,” he says.
Vrana projects that the remote sensing and initial site analysis will be completed during 2010. In late 2010, early 2011, CMURM will issue an interim report with recommendations for next steps for the parties to the agreement: Great Lakes Exploration, the Republic of France, and the State of Michigan.
Test Excavation?: 2011 - ?
“Excavation is inherently intrusive – you’re destroying evidence as well as gathering it,” says Vrana. Excavation has to be planned carefully and requires a good justification. Great Lakes and CMURM will do whatever is necessary to protect the scientific, historic and archaeological values of the shipwreck.
Depending on the findings of Phase II, CMURM will make a decision as to whether to recommend a test excavation.