Le Griffon was a 40 foot long barque (sailing ship) with 7 cannons.
It was crafted by French explorer Robert de La Salle. He was planning to map the Great Lakes, initially thinking they might be a connecting gateway to the Orient.
Le Griffon launched August 7, 1679 from Cayuga Island (Niagara Falls, NY).
On board were La Salle, Father Louis Hennepin, Lucas the pilot and a crew totaling 32 people.
They sailed from New York through the then-uncharted waters of Lake Erie, Lake St. Clair, Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, until landing on an island in Lake Michigan, not far from Green Bay, Wisconsin.
September 18, 1679, La Salle loads the ship with pelts (animal furs) from local Indians and sends it along with Lucas the pilot and 5 other crew members back home.
On the return trip, the crew and ship completely vanish.
To this day, no one knows what happened. There is no trace. Many famous searches have turned up nothing.
La Salle himself thought the crew purposely sank the boat and absconded with the wealth of pelts. Even if that were true, where is the shipwreck?
Since disappearing there have been 30+ claims of its discovery. People claim to discover Le Griffon left and right but nobody has actually done so.
Le Griffon remains the most hunted shipwreck in the Great Lakes.
Whomever does eventually find the shipwreck will make a fortune.
The most credible claim so far is the one put forth in the book The Wreck of the Griffon:
“In 1898, Albert Cullis was the lighthouse keeper at the Mississagi Strait Lighthouse in Ontario, Canada,” author Joan Forsberg said.
The Mississagi Strait is a narrow strait on the Canadian side of Lake Huron, connecting the North Channel to the main water body, separating Manitoulin Island from Cockburn Island.
“One day, the lighthouse keeper was in the woods near the lighthouse, located an old beached shipwreck,” said Forsberg. “He found a cave, and inside the cave, were four skeletons, and one of the skeletons was gigantic; the skull was huge.”
Could that have been the skeleton of Lucas, the pilot of the Griffon, who was reportedly a huge man?
“Cullis went back to the lighthouse to get his assistant to come check out what he’d found,” said Forsberg. “The two would locate another cave with two skeletons; that makes six bodies; there were six in the crew of the Griffon.”
The question was raised: Could the old, beached shipwreck and the six skeletons be connected in some way?
“The lighthouse keeper (Cullis) had never heard of the Griffon,” Forsberg said.
Cullis and his assistant decided to explore further and started digging to see what else they might find.
“They found a watch that was ultimately dated to the 1600s and of French design,” Forsberg said. “They found military-style buttons; they found tokens; the fur traders, when they sold their pelts, instead of getting coin of the realm, they would get something called tokens.”
Thirty years would pass before anybody considered the Mississagi Straits shipwreck could possibly be the Griffon.
But was it?0