'Holy grail' shipwreck haunted by crew is found 350 years after being 'sunk by curse'

The Griffin sank into the dark depths of Lake Michigan during her maiden voyage in 1679 and became a “holy grail” for shipwreck hunters – according to legend

Steve Libert appears on the remains of The Griffin (

Image: Source: Great Lakes Exploration Group via Pen News)

A “cursed” shipwreck that sank almost 350 years ago was identified in one of the Great Lakes in North America, bringing an end to a maritime mystery.

The Griffin sank into the dark depths of Lake Michigan on her maiden voyage in 1679 while carrying a precious cargo of furs.

Rumor has it that frightened natives cursed it after a prophet of the North American Iroquois tribe told French explorer René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle, to beware of “darkness like a cloud … ready to take you.” to envelop “.

La Salle had hoped to find a way through the lakes to somehow reach the distant shores of Japan and China.

Since its disappearance, it has been considered the “holy grail” for shipwreck hunters who wanted to unlock a piece of history.

La Salle, who was not on board for the fateful voyage, never found out what was happening to the ship.

A handle plate is attached to the keel
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Photo credit: Great Lakes Exploration Group via Pen News)

But before it went, Metiomek, an Iroquois prophet, apparently told him: “Beware! Darkness like a cloud is ready to envelop you.

“The curse of the Christian Indian rests on you and on your great canoe.

“It will sink into the deep waters and your blood will stain the hands of those you have trusted!”

Steve and Kathie Libert, a married couple, determined that a wreck found in 2018 was likely that of the mysterious Griffin The express.

The keel of the ship is still partially intact
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Image:

Photo credit: Great Lakes Exploration Group via Pen News)

Mr and Mrs Libert claim the Griffin matches the wreck found near Poverty Island in Lake Michigan in 2018.

Local traditions say the Griffin became a ghost ship, and the crew can still hear it singing as it sails between the clouds in the light of the moon.

But the rubble suggests the most plausible theory that the ship was lost in a storm and the cargo pelts, valued at up to $ 12,000 at the time – 640,000 pounds in today’s money – sank with her.

The bowsprit is said to have broken off and sunk a few miles before the ship sank.

Legend has it that you can still hear the ship’s crew singing when they sail between the clouds at night …
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Photo credit: Great Lakes Exploration Group via Pen News)

Carbon dating studies of the bowsprit determined the ship’s age within a year of the boat’s construction.

Mr. Libert said, “There are numerous theories about what happened to The Griffin.

“Father Louis Hennepin said it was lost in a violent storm. Some say the Indians boarded the ship and killed the crew. Then they set the ship on fire.

“Many believed that the Jesuits were responsible for the ship’s disappearance.

How it would have looked
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Image:

Alamy Stock Photo)

“Many believed that the Jesuits were responsible for the ship’s disappearance.

Mr. Libert added: “The ship has no evidence of fire damage to the wood debris. We are confident that the ship was destroyed due to a severe storm.

“The 3.8 mile distance between the bowsprit and the main section strongly suggests that the Indians did not sink it, nor did La Salle’s men mutiny and sink the ship.

“If the latter is true, the ship would rest in deeper water instead of in shallow waters.”

The bowsprit is believed to have broken off and sunk a few miles away before the rest of the ship went down
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Image:

Photo credit: Great Lakes Exploration Group via Pen News)

The Griffin, Mr. Libert believes, was hit by a four-day storm.

Carbon dating of the bowsprit estimated an age range within a year of the Griffin’s sinking in 1679.

The other nearby wreck was dated between 1632 and 1982.

Mr. Libert added: “Both the Seneca and Iroquois felt threatened by the construction and sight of Le Griffon and believed that it posed a threat to the ‘Great Spirit’.

The wreck of the ship’s keelson is pictured during a dive
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Image:

Photo credit: Great Lakes Exploration Group via Pen News)

“The Seneca were in awe of the French for building such a large canoe. They were so concerned for their safety that they tried to burn the ship while it was being built.”

Mr Libert said the discovery took a long time, triggered by a history teacher when he was still in school.

He said, “My interest began the day my teacher reached over my shoulder and touched my shoulder and said out loud in class, ‘Maybe one day someone in this class will find it.’

“Fifty-one years later, this story still fascinates me.”

The Griffin’s first voyage on Lake Erie, August 7, 1679
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Alamy Stock Photo)

But the battle for the Griffin is fraught with problems.

After the bowsprit was discovered, a 10-year legal battle with the state of Michigan prevented researchers from digging up the rest of the ship. Only then did Mr. Libert and various archaeologists discover that the bowsprit and the rest of the ship were separate.

After two years of looking through satellite imagery, Mr Libert found what he believed was the rest of the wreck and this was later confirmed on a dive in September 2018.

He recalls: “I was emotionally drained of all my energy and was in a state of utter relief and exhaustion, but I could still say ‘We found it!’ calling out. when I broke the surface. “

The ship tried to cross Lake Michigan in North America
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Getty Images)

The state of Michigan continues to prevent a deep excavation. According to Mr Libert, “the state feels that we are interfering with its sovereignty and that we are just treasure hunters who encroach on the rights of science and archaeologists”.

Mr. Libert will continue to search the bed of Lake Michigan using non-intrusive techniques, with the ultimate goal of finding a cannon with the date stamped on it.

Since then, the Liberts have written a book about their discoveries, Le Griffon and the Huron Islands – 1679: Our Story of Exploration and Discovery.

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