Divers began opening an underwater pit 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.
Rene Robert Cavelier de la Salle ordered the Griffin built near Niagara Falls in 1679 to support his quest for what was widely — but erroneously — believed to be a passageway to China and Japan. It was the first European-style vessel to traverse the upper Great Lakes, crossing Lake Erie and venturing northward to Lake Huron, then across Lake Michigan to the eastern shore of modern-day Wisconsin.
La Salle ordered the ship to return for more supplies and to deliver a load of furs, while he continued his journey by canoe. The Griffin was never heard from again. There are various theories about its fate, but none that have been proven.
Now, explorers are hauling up items that may solve the mystery.
Scientists say a wooden beam extending from the floor of northern Lake Michigan appears to have been there for centuries, an important finding as they try to determine whether it's part of the Griffin, the first European-style ship to sail on the upper Great Lakes.
Marine archaeologists from the U.S. and France are studying the timber and digging a pit beneath it. They said a probing device has detected what appears to be a solid surface 18 to 20 feet below the lake floor.
They say they're still not certain they're dealing with a shipwreck. But Michel L'Hour of France's Department of Underwater Archaeological Research says the timber appears to be a bowsprit, which is a pole that extends from a vessel's stem.
Check out photos of their finds so far. -JOHN FLESHER, AP
Above: Michel L’Hour, director of France’s Department of Underwater Archaeological Research, prepares to dive to what explorers believe may be the site of the long-lost ship the Griffin, Saturday, June 15, 2013 in northern Lake Michigan. 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. (AP Photo/John Flesher)