Shipwreck: Divers May Be Close To Uncovering A Ship's Hull

Jun 17, 2013

12:00 am

UPDATE: The artifact recovered by Great Lakes Exploration Group was a block of wood a little more than a foot in length. It appeared to have been hewn on at least one side and was blackened evenly on all sides, almost like wood charred in a fire. Archeologists on the dive had little to say about the object. They will continue to focus their efforts around the beam of wood that was originally found protruding from the bottom of the lake.

6:00 pm

A group excavating what appears to be a shipwreck on the bottom of Lake Michigan says it has recovered an artifact from the site. Scientists declined to say more to reporters Saturday afternoon. The project manager would only describe the object as a cultural artifact.

“It was shaped or formed by humans,” said Ken Vrana.    

Great Lakes Exploration Group is searching for the wreck of the Griffin. The ship built by French explorer Robert de La Salle was lost in 1679, believed to have gone down in a storm. French archeologists joined the survey this weekend. On Saturday, the team dug the first test hole on the site and has a permit to dig up to three more.  

Robert de La Salle built the ship to support his conquest of the Mississippi River for King Louis XIV. On its first return voyage, the boat disappeared in a storm after leaving Green Bay. Its location has been a mystery for centuries.

Great Lakes Exploration says it might have solved that mystery in 2001 when it found a hewn wooden beam, with pegs stuck in it, rising from the bottom of northern Lake Michigan. Acoustic surveys done since the discovery show something beneath the lake bottom there that is roughly the shape of a small schooner.

The head of France’s underwater archeological research program, Michel L’Hour, dove the site Saturday. He will be joined by another French archeologist tomorrow, a specialist in seventeenth-century shipbuilding. American archeologists working for Great Lakes Exploration hope to uncover a portion of the structure they believe is embedded in the lake bottom so the French team can examine it.

The ship will belong to France if it is the Griffin.