'Le Griffon': Muskegon Divers Claim To Have Found The 'Holy Grail' Of Shipwrecks In Lake Michigan

JohnThomas Didymus

Two divers say they have found "Le Griffon," a 17th-century sailing ship widely considered the "holy grail" of shipwrecks. The ship was lost in the depths of northern Lake Michigan over 300 years ago.

The divers said they found Le Griffon in 2011, but are just announcing the discovery because they were consulting experts to confirm it.

Le Griffon, also called the Griffin, a wooden ship built by the French explorer René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, in his search for the Northwest Passage to the Far East, was lost in the northern part of Lake Michigan after it was caught in a storm with a crew of six and cargo of furs on the return trip of its maiden voyage to Green Bay, Wisconsin, from the Niagara River in Sept. 1679.

The two divers, Kevin Dykstra and Frederick Monroe, told WZZM 13 ABC that they photographed the shipwreck accidentally while diving in search of gold bullion, about $2 million of Confederate gold coins, that were being smuggled in box cars.

"We were looking for $2 million in gold bullion that is somewhere at the bottom of Lake Michigan. In the late 1800s, there were box cars crossing the Great Lakes, and some of those box cars were pushed off from car ferries that were hauling them to save the ferries in bad storms."
"It really wasn't until we got back to a computer and viewed the photos that I realized I very well could have been photographing the Griffin... We were literally in the water for a couple of hours when we got a hit on the sonar. When I was down there, I turned around and I was literally four feet from this shipwreck and I never saw it on my way down, so my return trip was quite fast."
"We researched online to find a 17th-century French Griffin, and the one we came up with, I over-layed on top of the photo [I took of the Griffin carving on the front of the ship] and it was really impressive. So it's either a 100-to-1 odds that the front of the ship looks exactly like a griffin, and I don't know how that can happen by coincidence, and to know that the wood carvers that built the Griffin carved the likeness of a Griffin in the front of the ship, it kind of lends itself towards that."

Following discovery of what was believed to be part of the wreckage near Fairport, Michigan, in 2004, ownership of the wreckage has been the subject of lawsuits.

But Monroe said that now that they have found Le Griffon, they will now focus on finding the gold they were searching for. They said they have seen box cars at the bottom of Lake Michigan and that they were optimistic they would soon find the gold.

Le Griffon was not the only ship lost in the Great Lakes. It is believed there are thousands of other shipwrecks at the bottom of the lakes. One of the ships, The Nelson, which was lost in Lake Superior in 1899, was found recently during a sonar search in the area.

[Image: Wikimedia Commons]