Wooden beam could be detached part of shipwreck

June 19, 2013 by John Flesher

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.

Shipwreck hunter Steve Libert discovered a 10.5-foot (3.2-meter) section of the timber jutting from the lake bed twelve years ago in an area where he was convinced that the Griffin, commanded by the French explorer Rene Robert Cavelier de la Salle, sank in 1679. French experts who inspected the beam in recent days said it appeared to be a bowsprit—a spur or pole that extends from a vessel's stem—that was hundreds of years old.

Crews have been digging beside the timber, where sonar readings indicated that one or more objects that together exceeded 40 feet (12 meters) long were submerged in mud. Libert and other expedition leaders believed they might be the hull of the Griffin, and that the excavation would find a connection between it and the presumed bowsprit.

But on Tuesday, as a diver was widening the pit, the timber began wobbling. and other expedition leaders decided to take it down instead of trying to stabilize it, fearing it was a safety risk. So the diver eased it to the lake bed after checking beneath and discovering that it wasn't attached to another object, but simply had been embedded in the tightly packed sediments.

Even though no other was found, project manager Ken Vrana said there's still a good chance it is located not far away. With the timber no longer in place, crews stepped up their dredging operation in hopes of reaching a hard surface that a probing device has indicated is 18 to 20 feet (6 meters) down.

"It could be that the ship is very close to this area, but it is impossible to say for sure at this point," said Michel L'Hour, director of France's Department of Underwater Archaeological Research and a shipwreck expert.

Meanwhile, expedition leaders were talking with state officials about what to do with the . Options include leaving it on the lake bottom—concealed to avoid theft or vandalism—or bringing it to shore, which would require expert preservation treatment.

Explore further: Lake Michigan shipwreck found after 112 years

Related Stories

Lake Michigan shipwreck found after 112 years

June 25, 2010

(AP) -- A great wooden steamship that sank more than a century ago in a violent Lake Michigan storm has been found off the Milwaukee-area shoreline, and divers say the intact vessel appears to have been perfectly preserved ...

Submerged structure stumps Israeli archaeologists

May 23, 2013

The massive circular structure appears to be an archaeologists dream: a recently discovered antiquity that could reveal secrets of ancient life in the Middle East and is just waiting to be excavated.

Divers begin Lake Michigan search for Griffin ship

June 16, 2013

Divers began opening an underwater pit Saturday at a remote site in northern Lake Michigan that they say could be the resting place of the Griffin, a ship commanded by the 17th century French explorer La Salle.

Scientists: Timber in Lake Michigan centuries old (Update)

June 18, 2013

A wooden beam embedded at the bottom of northern Lake Michigan appears to have been there for centuries, underwater archaeologists announced Tuesday, a crucial finding as crews dig toward what they hope is the carcass of ...

Recommended for you

From a very old skeleton, new insights on ancient migrations

October 9, 2015

Three years ago, a group of researchers found a cave in Ethiopia with a secret: it held the 4,500-year-old remains of a man, with his head resting on a rock pillow, his hands folded under his face, and stone flake tools surrounding ...

Mexican site yields new details of sacrifice of Spaniards

October 9, 2015

It was one of the worst defeats in one of history's most dramatic conquests: Only a year after Hernan Cortes landed in Mexico, hundreds of people in a Spanish-led convey were captured, sacrificed and apparently eaten.

Who you gonna trust? How power affects our faith in others

October 6, 2015

One of the ongoing themes of the current presidential campaign is that Americans are becoming increasingly distrustful of those who walk the corridors of power – Exhibit A being the Republican presidential primary, in which ...

Ancient genome from Africa sequenced for the first time

October 8, 2015

The first ancient human genome from Africa to be sequenced has revealed that a wave of migration back into Africa from Western Eurasia around 3,000 years ago was up to twice as significant as previously thought, and affected ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.