It seems to us that the State of Michigan is burying its head in the sand – just like an ostrich – over potentially important archeological artefacts which are buried in the mud of Lake Michigan.
We have learnt of an ongoing battle between the District Attorney’s office and one Steve Libert who believes he has discovered what would be the most important archeological find in the State’s history – none other than the Griffon which, carrying a crew of six, five to seven brass cannons and 6,000 pounds of beaver and buffalo pelts, sank shortly after departing from an island near Green Bay in 1679.
The discovery was made by Libert, an amateur scuba diving enthusiast, who for a long time searched for wrecks of ships that carried gold. An intelligence analyst with the Navy, the 55-year-old resident of Herndon, Va., near Washington was always intrigued by the long-lost Griffon, and so began reading the journals of an associate of Robert La Salle, the Frenchman, who is believed to have been one of the first Europeans to have sailed the Great Lakes and was at the time making exploratory voyages for the French crown. Libert believed the Griffon had foundered somewhere off the coast of Escanaba in the Upper Peninsula.
Diving near Escanaba in 2001, Libert was swimming through water so murky that visibility was 3 inches. Nearly 100 feet below the surface, he bumped into a wooden pole protruding from the lake bottom.
“I had my hands out, like I was walking in the dark, when suddenly I hit this thing,” he said. “I couldn’t figure out what it was.”
He now believes the mussel-covered timber is the bow tip of the Griffon. He retrieved a thumb-sized sliver of the wood and conducted a carbon-dating test, which showed a 33 percent chance that it came from the 17th century.
Check out the tough diving conditions in Frogmanvideo of diving on a wreck in Lake Michigan.
If it wasn’t for Libert, the prized ship would have remained buried under three centuries of sand, silt and history, said local divers. Its possible discovery could open a long-shuttered hatch to the earliest days of the European settlers, helping researchers learn what the times and people were like by providing a snapshot of the era.
The Griffon was just 40 to 60 feet long and crudely made on the banks of the Niagara River just above Niagara Falls. The twin-masted brigantine never finished its maiden voyage.
The Attorney General’s office said the law is there to protect the over 1500 shipwrecks in State waters from divers who would otherwise plunder the sites for profit.
Whilst we agree that these sites need to be protected from plunder surely this is a case for the State of Michigan to work with the local diving community for if there is no resolution the site will remain unexplored and noone will be any the wiser of what might be there – come on you ostriches – get your head out of the sand – or should we say mud.
Now the French government has stepped into the fray claiming the site and supporting Libert in his quest.