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Local shipwreck still a mystery

November 25, 2013
Daily Press

TRAVERSE CITY (AP) - Five months after divers searched a section of Lake Michigan offshore of Delta County for a mysterious 17th century ship and retrieved a wooden slab the group leader believes is part of the vessel, it's still uncertain whether they are on the right track.

The object of the weeklong mission in June was the Griffin, built by the legendary French explorer La Salle, which disappeared in 1679 with its six-member crew, becoming the oldest known shipwreck in the upper Great Lakes. The dive team dug a deep hole at the base of the nearly 20-foot-long timber, which was wedged vertically into the lake floor, hoping other wreckage was beneath. To their disappointment, they found nothing.

Since then, the beam has undergone a CT scan at a Michigan hospital. A wooden sliver has been sent to a Florida lab for carbon-14 analysis. Three French experts who participated in the expedition have completed a report. Others are in the works, as scientists who have examined the slab or data from the tests compile their findings. Thus far, most have declined to take a position on whether the Griffin has been found.

"Based on the totality of the scientific results thus far, as well as historical research, to this point there are still two valid theories" about the wooden beam, said Ken Vrana, who served as project manager for the expedition. It could be part of a ship, or a "pound net stake" - an underwater fishing apparatus used in the Great Lakes in the 19th and early 20th centuries, he said.

Dean Anderson, Michigan's state archaeologist, who has long been skeptical that the beam came from the Griffin, told The Associated Press last week he is convinced the latter alternative is correct.

"I'm looking at the evidence and the evidence is pointing to a net stake," Anderson said. "I'm not seeing any evidence of a vessel element here."



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