August 16, 2010 by Amy Elliott Bragg
Michigan and France agree to stop fighting, for now, over Le Griffon
Just a quick news hit for you: France and Michigan, still crazy after all these years, have agreed to temporarily stop issuing each other papers over a 300-year-0ld Lake Michigan shipwreck that is, at this point, hypothetical.
Le Griffon made its maiden voyage on August 7, 1679, sailing from the Niagara River across Lake Erie, Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. It was the first time a full-sized sailing ship cruised Great Lakes waters.
This was the ship from which Father Louis Hennepin regarded Detroit, writing:
… The strait is covered with forests, fruit trees like walnuts, chestnuts, plum and apple trees, wild vines loaded with grapes, of which we made some little wine. There is timber fit for building. It is the place in which deer most delight.
On its return trip, Rene La Salle’s huge brigantine left Green Bay piled with furs. Then it disappeared.
Historians, prospectors and wreck divers have been trying to find it ever since. Wreck divers of my acquaintance have described it as a kind of white whale.
Several years ago, one diver, Mr. Steven Libert of Virginia, claimed that he found it. That got France and the U.S. asking some tough questions. Michigan says it’s in our water, so it’s ours, fair game. France says La Salle sailed for the king, under the French flag, so they get it back. This kind of fighting, for more than six years, has prevented anyone from finding out whether or not this wreck is actually the Griffon and therefore actually worth fighting about.
But today, sweet history, today! Michigan and France struck a deal. Mr. Libert now has permission to go about activities like carbon dating, sonar scanning and looking for the insignia of Louis XIV on cannons.
Needless to say, your friends at the Night Train are very excited at the news of this development and will follow the story as it unfolds.
This could be a really big deal! I’ll throw a cocktail party if it’s the genuine article. You’re all invited.