Explorer says Griffin shipwreck may be found

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Explorer says Griffin shipwreck may be found
FILE - In this June 15, 2013, file photo, explorer Steve Libert speaks on a fishing boat as dive teams prepare to inspect a site in northern Lake Michigan. A debris field at the bottom of Lake Michigan may be the remains of the long-lost Griffin, a vessel commanded by a 17th-century French explorer, said a shipwreck hunter who has sought the wreckage for decades. Libert told The Associated Press that his crew found the debris this month about 120 feet (36 meters) from the spot where they removed a wooden slab a year ago that was protruding from the lake bottom. (AP Photo/John Flesher, File)
In this June 16, 2013 file photo provided by Great Lakes Exploration Group, diver Jim Nowka of Great Lakes Exploration Group inspects a wooden beam extending from the floor of Lake Michigan that experts believe may be part of the Griffin, a ship that sank in 1679. The timber has been examined by U.S. and French experts and underwent a hospital CT scan and carbon dating to determine its age and whether it once was part of a vessel. Nearly a year later, reports obtained by The Associated Press and interviews with key players reveal sharp divisions over whether the elusive ship has been found. (AP Photo/Great Lakes Exploration Group, David J. Ruck, File)
Members of the Great Lakes Exploration Group carry a nearly 400-pound wooden slab into the radiology section of Otsego Memorial Hospital in Gaylord, Mich., Saturday Aug. 24, 2013, for a CT scan to create images of tree rings from its interior. The group hopes the scan can date the timber and help determine whether it came from a ship called the Griffin that disappeared in Lake Michigan in 1679. (AP Photo/John Flesher)
Steve Libert of Great Lakes Exploration Group standing beside a nearly 20-foot-long timber slab as it gets a CT scan at Otsego Memorial Hospital in Gaylord, Mich., Saturday Aug. 24, 2013. The scan was taken in hopes of dating the timber and helping determine whether it is part of the Griffin, a ship that disappeared on Lake Michigan in 1679. (AP Photo/John Flesher)
In this photo taken Aug. 24, 2013, Steve Libert of Great Lakes Exploration Group points to a timber slab that received a CT scan at Otsego Memorial Hospital in Gaylord, Mich. The scan produced images of interior tree rings that may help date the timber and determine whether it came from the Griffin, a ship that disappeared on Lake Michigan in 1679. (AP Photo/John Flesher)
In this Saturday, June 15, 2013 file photo provided by Great Lakes Exploration Group, French underwater archaeologist Olivia Hulot jots notes while inspecting a timber jutting from the bottom of northern Lake Michigan that experts believe could be part of the long-lost ship the Griffin. A wooden beam that has long been the focus of the search for a 17th century shipwreck in northern Lake Michigan was not attached to a buried vessel as searchers had suspected, but still may have come from the elusive Griffin or some other ship, archaeologists said Wednesday, June 19, 2013 (AP Photo/Great Lakes Exploration Group, Chris Doyal, File)
FILE - In this October 2012 file image from video provided by David J. Ruck timbers protrude from the bottom of Lake Michigan that were discovered by Steve Libert, head of Great Lakes Exploration Group, in 2001. Libert thinks the beam could be the bowsprit from the Griffin, a long-lost ship commanded by legendary French explorer La Salle, which he has sought for 30 years. Five months after a dive team searched Lake Michigan for a 17th century shipwreck, it's still uncertain whether a wooden slab they removed from the lake bottom was part of the legendary Griffin. (AP Photo/David J. Ruck,File) MANDATORY CREDIT
Michel L’Hour, left, director of France’s Department of Underwater Archaeological Research, talks with colleague Olivia Hulot before diving to the site of what may be the fabled Griffin shipwreck, Saturday, June 15, 2013 in northern Lake Michigan. (AP Photo/John Flesher)
In this October 2012 image from video provided by David J. Ruck diver Tom Kucharsky passes timbers protruding from the bottom of Lake Michigan that were discovered by Steve Libert, head of Great Lakes Exploration Group, in 2001. On Saturday, June 15, 2013, Libert will lead a diving expedition to an underwater site in northern Lake Michigan, where archaeologists and technicians will try to determine whether the timbers and other items beneath layers of sediment are what remain of 17th Century French explorer La Salle's legendary Griffin. (AP Photo/David J. Ruck ) MANDATORY CREDIT
Map locates the search for a 17th century, French ship
File - In this June 15, 2013 file photo is explorer Steve Libert on a fishing boat as dive teams prepare to inspect a site in northern Lake Michigan. Libert, who has searched 30 years for the French explorer La Salle’s lost ship the Griffin, hauled a nearly 400-pound beam ashore in June. On Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013, Libert's crew will take the massive timber to the radiology section of a Gaylord, Mich., hospital for a CT scan hoping to determining the age of the tree that produced it and when it was cut down. The images will be sent to a Cornell University tree expert. (AP Photo/John Flesher, File)
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By JOHN FLESHER

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) -- A debris field at the bottom of Lake Michigan may be the remains of the long-lost Griffin, a vessel commanded by a 17th-century French explorer, said a shipwreck hunter who has sought the wreckage for decades.

Steve Libert told The Associated Press that his crew found the debris this month about 120 feet from the spot where they removed a wooden slab a year ago that was protruding from the lake bottom. Libert believes that timber was the bowsprit of Rene-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle's ship, although scientists who joined the 2013 expedition say the slab more likely was an abandoned fishing net stake.

"This is definitely the Griffin - I'm 99.9 percent sure it is," Libert said. "This is the real deal."

He described the bottomland area as littered with wooden planks that could belong to a ship's bow, along with nails and pegs that would have fastened the hull to the rest of the vessel and what appeared to be sections of a mast.

He acknowledged his dive team had found no "smoking gun" such as a cannon or other artifacts with markings identifying them as belonging to the Griffin. But the nails and other implements appeared similar to those from La Belle, another of La Salle's ships that sank near the Gulf of Mexico, Libert said.

He said his organization has sent images of the debris to three French underwater archaeologists who took part in last year's search. They plan to seek state and federal permits to excavate in the area in September, Libert said.

Dean Anderson, Michigan's state archaeologist, said Monday he hadn't been notified of the find and could not speculate about whether the Griffin had finally been located. Anderson supports the theory that the timber discovered earlier was a fishing apparatus.

The area strewn with debris is roughly the size of a football field, said Brian Abbott of Nautilus Marine Group, who joined Libert's search this month and took sonar readings of the bottomlands. It is near tiny Poverty Island in northwestern Lake Michigan and about 50 feet below the water's surface.

The Griffin is believed to be the first ship of European design to sail the upper Great Lakes. It disappeared with a crew of six on its maiden voyage in 1679 after La Salle had disembarked near the mouth of Wisconsin's Green Bay.

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