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QUICK UPDATE: 2013 Expedition
The Search for Le Griffon

The search for answers to La Salle’s elusive flagship Le Griffon began this summer with archaeologists from around the world, including France’s elite DRASSM team. After Steve Libert’s extensive research placing the fabled ship in the area, Libert believes the bowsprit foretells the demise of this famous ship.

GLX’s divers and archaeologists excavated the bowsprit this summer, discovering that it was not attached to any wreckage that could positively identify the ship being that of Le Griffon. “This piece is consistent with a 17th century bowsprit”, says Libert, President of Great Lakes Exploration Group (GLX). “The tree nails would have held the flag staff or a small mast for rigging the topmast”. GLX initiated a forensic study on the unique wooden beam in hopes to identify the age. “If the analysis can determine that the piece is centuries old, and the French archaeologists’ confirm 17th century construction, then we are certain it is from Le Griffon”. Meanwhile the search continues for the rest of the La Salle’s ship.

GLX is developing an e-Book about this exciting search to find the elusive Le Griffon, coming out soon.


September 13, 2010:
Great Lakes Exploration Group LLC to Conduct an Archaeological Assessment of Suspected Shipwreck Site in Northern Lake Michigan

State of Michigan and Republic of France to cooperate in the investigation under formal agreement

PURCELLVILLE, VA - September 2010 - The Great Lakes Exploration Group has engaged the Center for Maritime & Underwater Resource Management (CMURM) to conduct a Phase II archaeological assessment of the site they believe to contain La Salle's long-lost sailing vessel, Le Griffon.

CMURM is a Michigan nonprofit scientific and educational organization which specializes in underwater archaeology, historic shipwreck management, and maritime heritage education. Ken Vrana, CMURM project manager, "looks forward to applying the talents of qualified Michigan professionals and advanced underwater remote-sensing technologies in conducting the scientific investigation."

The vessel Le Griffon (English: Griffin) was lost in 1679 and was the flagship of famed French explorer, René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle. LaSalle went on to claim extensive lands in North America, a portion of which became "The Louisiana Purchase."

The site was discovered in northern Lake Michigan in 2001 by shipwreck explorer Steve Libert, president of the Great Lakes Exploration Group. The agreement with the State of Michigan and Republic of France describes the process for documenting and identifying the suspected shipwreck.

GLEG believes that its prior historical and environmental research lends support to this location as the final resting place of Le Griffon, the first decked European-built ship to sail the upper Great Lakes. Subsequent Phase I surveys of the area with side-scan sonar, magnetometer, and sub-bottom profiler have revealed a potential submerged cultural resource with acoustic and magnetic signatures similar to a shipwreck.

Side-scan sonar is a survey instrument that uses sound waves (acoustics) to portray materials on the surface of submerged lands; a sub-bottom profiler also uses sound waves, but to image materials below the surface. Magnetometers measure deflections in the earth's magnetic field by the presence of iron-containing materials.

The second phase of non-invasive surveys will apply high-resolution sector scanning sonar and an advanced sub-bottom profiling instrument to map and characterize the site in more detail. Scientific divers will also document diagnostic features and artifacts in hopes of positively identifying these cultural remains.

"The assessment phase in archaeology is similar to crime scene investigation in law enforcement," says Mr. Vrana. "We work from a pre-written research design to collect scientifically-generated facts needed to answer the primary question on the minds of maritime enthusiasts throughout the Great Lakes region and beyond -- Is this Le Griffon?" Any future treatment of the site will depend on the findings of the archaeological assessment and deliberations among the parties to this cooperative agreement.

The investigation must be completed by January 2012 under terms of the agreement with the State of Michigan and Republic of France. No public funds will be used in the Phase II archaeological assessment.

For more information about the professional practice of underwater archaeology and the application of powerful new tools in the remote-sensing and scientific assessment of the underwater cultural heritage, please contact Ken Vrana, president of CMURM at vranaken@earthlink.net.

For more information about the Great Lakes Exploration Group LLC and its efforts to locate and identify Le Griffon, please contact Kathie Libert at kathie.libert@gmail.com.

Great Lakes Exploration Group LLC • 105 Park Avenue #9, Charlevoix, MI 49720 • 231-547-0005

Carbon dating of shipwreck looks promising.
Great Lakes Team onboard the Sharon.