335 years after its disappearance, an explorer says he’s found the remains of the French vessel Le Griffon Lake Michigan. Veronica Rueckert talks with the explorer about the ship’s history, and what he discovered deep in the lake. Veronica also talks with a guest about the most overused words in the English langues, and talks to a minister pushing for parole reform in the state.
Featured in this Show
Explorer Believes He's Found Great Lakes' Oldest Known Shipwreck
The mystery of the Great Lakes’ oldest shipwreck might be on its way to being solved. About 335 years after a French vessel disappeared in the lakes, an explorer named Steve Libert says he’s finally found it.
The ship, Le Griffon, is believed by historians to be first European ship to sail the Great Lakes — and judging by the fact that it never returned, the oldest shipwreck in the lakes as well.
The ship belonged to French explorer Frank de La Salle. His crew set sail from Washington Island in 1679, and was never heard from again.
Three centuries later, a young Steve Libert was told the story of Le Griffon by his teacher. The tale mesmerized him.
“I was basically sitting in class, dreaming about that ship,” he said.
Libert, who is now the president of the Great Lakes Exploration Group, would go on to spend decades hunting for the ship. He said that while other explorers searched Lake Huron for the ship, he opted to look in Lake Michigan. He analyzed primary source documents in a French archive, which he had translated to English. While the documents didn’t give a definitive answer, he said some of the descriptions within pointed him in the direction of upper Lake Michigan.
Libert hit it big in 2001 when he found a plank of wood protruding from the bottom of the lake that he believes was the ship’s bowsprit. Libert and his team spent years going through the legal process in order to excavate the wood and working to get French archeologists involved. Last June, the piece of timber was excavated, but wasn’t found to be connected to the ship.
However, Libert said that by studying the erosion marks on the wood, it was determined that the piece is at least 200 to 300 years old.
“If it’s 300 years old, there’s only one documented ship that we know of that ever went down in the Upper Great Lakes — and that’s the Griffon,” Libert said.
After renewing the necessary permits, Libert and his team went back to the site earlier this year to do remote sensing work, and ultimately, sent divers to the lake floor. Eventually, more wreckage was found, including fittings which closely resembled ones found in the remains of another La Salle shipwreck.
Libert said he believes the hull of the ship lies under the lake floor at the site.
“That’s where we’re going to find the cannons, and the cannonballs and the cultural materials,” he said.
An excavation will have to wait until Libert can get the necessary permits. And while that could be slow, Libert is proud of how his crew has gone about this operation.
“Our process has been legal, political and technical, but we overcame all those obstacles to prevail,” he said.
Should an excavation take place, and the ship is found, Libert said it’s the property of France. Nevertheless, he’d like to see the ship reassembled and placed in a museum so others can have the chance to see it.
Activists Call For Parole Reforms At Statehouse
Wednesday a hundred activists from around the state headed to the capitol building to ask for parole reform in the state’s prisons. They attended a public meeting with Wisconsin’s Corrections Secretary Edward Wall and Attorney General J. B. Van Hollen.
Curious Wisconsin – Le Griffon Found In Lake Michigan?
An explorer says he’s found the remains of Le Griffon, a 17th century ship that sunk in Lake Michigan after setting sail on its maiden voyage from Wisconsin. He talks about the history of the ship, and why he thinks he’s finally found it, after years of searching.
The Most Overused Words
The host of NPR’s “A Way With Words” joins us to talk about the most over-used words in English. And we hear your votes!
- Veronica Rueckert Host
- Chris Malina Producer
- Galen Druke Producer
- Steve Libert Guest
- Rev. Jerry Hancock Guest
- Grant Barrett Guest
Wisconsin Public Radio, © Copyright 2024, Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System and Wisconsin Educational Communications Board.