The Griffin


In 1679, the French explorer Rene Cavelier LaSalle launched the first European ship to sail the Great Lakes.  A 60-foot armed brig, the Griffin set sail from Niagara and carried LaSalle on his voyage of discovery into the upper Great Lakes.  Leaving the ship at the location of present-day Green Bay, Wisconsin, LaSalle continued overland in search of a route to the Mississippi River.

The Griffin, loaded with valuable furs for the return voyage, left Green Bay in September 1679 bound for Niagara, and was never heard from again.  Since that time the Griffin has passed into legend, and stories are even told of ships' crews who see her today, tossed on the waves, with a ghost crew still making for home.  Theories abound about the cause and location of her sinking.  She might have been overcome by storms in Lake Michigan, attacked and burned by Indians in the Straits of Mackinaw, or taken over by a mutinous crew who stole the furs and scuttled the ship in a deserted Lake Huron bay.  Although many divers claim to have found her final resting place, no claim has ever been sufficiently documented. 

The search for the Griffin is an ongoing project for Great Lakes Division cadets.  Using SCUBA gear, submersible floodlights, sonar mapping equipment and an underwater robotic camera, the cadets spend their summers exploring likely wreck sites.  Documents from the 1600s indicate the Griffin never stopped for supplies at the French outpost in the Straits of Mackinaw, so the cadets have concentrated their search in the waters of northern Lake Michigan between Green Bay and the Straits.  By gathering accurate data about the lake's bottom topography, valuable information will be compiled that can form the foundation for future searches for the Griffin.