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Le Griffon expedition ends without official identification

The Great Lakes Exploration Group, stationed this weekend in Fairport, Michigan, believes it found the ship, Le Griffon. It's the first European-owned vessel to sail the upper Great Lakes. Le Griffon disappeared more than 300 years ago. Credit: Don Steffens/WLUK-TV
The Great Lakes Exploration Group, stationed this weekend in Fairport, Michigan, believes it found the ship, Le Griffon. It's the first European-owned vessel to sail the upper Great Lakes. Le Griffon disappeared more than 300 years ago. Credit: Don Steffens/WLUK-TV

FAIRPORT, MI (WTAQ) - The mystery of a sunken 17th century ship remains after a week-long expedition in Fairport, Michigan.

In September 1679, French explorer Robert La Salle's Griffon disappeared after leaving Washington Island.

After officially starting his search 32 years ago, Steve Libert says he isn’t giving up his dream of finding the long lost Griffon.

“Michele L’Hour told me that next year he will come back with his French team along with the American team and we will find it,” Libert told FOX 11.

Libert doesn’t plan to wait for French archeologists before resuming his search for Le Griffon. He says he could be back out on Lake Michigan as early as next week.

“Nobody wants to quit,” Tommy Gouin of Great Lakes Diving & Salvage tells FOX 11.

“The key mission of this project is to look at this general area and make that determination, is the site of Le Griffon or not?” Ken Vrana, the project’s manager, told FOX 11.

The exploration team was able to recover a key artifact during its week long expedition. Scientists believe it is a centuries old bowsprit, possibly part of Le Griffon.

“We’ve taken measures,” said Eric Reith, a French archeologist. “We recorded all the characteristics of this piece to interpret and to connect this timber with the wreckage of the Griffon.”

The French archaeologists say they need more evidence to identify Le Griffon. The scientists flew back to France on Friday, but hope to return next summer.

“The piece that we do know we have, there’s no question in my mind that it’s extremely old and if it is 300 years old, there’s only one vessel that it can be and that’s the Griffon,” said Libert.

Libert has plans to move from Virginia to Michigan, to live here year round. He figures why not, he is already here a lot anyway trying to find the elusive Griffon.

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