Sometimes it is as difficult to prove the identity of a sunken ship as it is to find it. That is central to the story of the long-sought Griffon, which disappeared in 1679.
The Griffon was the first ship to challenge the upper Great Lakes. It disappeared, along with its crew and cargo of furs.
It was constructed by Rene-Robert Sieur de La Salle, who was one of the first French explorers to navigate the Great Lakes region. Later, he registered a claim on behalf of France for the Mississippi River watershed. It would give France control of land north of the Great Lakes as well as a huge expanse of land from the Allegheny Mountains to the Rocky Mountains in the west. It was called the Louisiana Purchase.
La Salle’s expedition and the Griffon’s loss were important factors in the founding of Canada. However, the Griffon’s demise nearly bankrupt La Salle.
Despite the attention it has received over 338 years the wreck of the Griffon remains officially unfound. This is in spite of the fact it has been the most hunted and the most “found” shipwreck in Great Lakes history.
The Griffon crossed Lake Erie on its maiden trip and was also the first to cross Erie’s fast-changing seas. It went on up the Detroit and St. Clair Rivers, and across Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. It vanished on its return after leaving from Green Bay, Wisconsin.