Shipwreck Lawsuit Closed

Jul 20, 2012

A legal battle over what might be the most historic shipwreck in the Great Lakes is over, for now. That means further exploration of a site in Lake Michigan could pick up again.

About a decade ago, a shipwreck hunter working out of the Garden Peninsula in the Upper Peninsula found what he says might be the Griffin. The ship owned by French explorer Robert de La Salle disappeared in 1679, but a legal battle involving the State of Michigan and the French government ensued that has slowed attempts to identify whatever he found. 

Now the federal judge handling the case says it appears the parties are working cooperatively and the court can close the matter. The man who discovered the timber protruding from the bottom of Lake Michigan, Steve Libert, says closing the court case will make it easier to proceed.

His team might be ready to start excavating the site next year but that will require a state permit. Libert has long accused the state of trying to steal his discovery and make it a government project. If it is the Griffin, it will ultimately be up to the French to decide what happens to the wreck.

The Griffin is thought to be the first European sailing vessel built in the Great Lakes. It disappeared, loaded with furs, in September of 1679.