Beneath the cold waves of Lake Michigan rests an aging shipwreck, its wooden planks encrusted with brown-and-gray zebra mussels, that may be the remnants of a 17th-century ship called the Griffin, two Michigan-based treasure hunters say.
French explorer René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle built the Griffin in 1679, but it was lost in Lake Michigan the same year.
In 2011, Michigan-based treasure hunters Kevin Dykstra and Frederick Monroe found a shipwreck as they were searching for the $2 million in gold that, according to local legend, fell from a ferry crossing Lake Michigan in the 1800s, they told WZZM, a western Michigan news station.
Their sonar caught a mass below, and Dykstra dove into the water to take video.
“I didn’t go down there with the expectation of seeing a shipwreck — I can tell you that,” Dykstra told Live Science. When he and Monroe later reviewed the video, they realized it might be the Griffin.
But other experts aren’t convinced that the wreck is the Griffin. Rather, it may be the remnants of a tugboat that was scrapped after “steam engines became more economical to operate,” said Brendon Baillod, a Great Lakes historian who has written scholarly papers on the Griffin.
The wreck’s discoverers agree that more evidence is needed.
State archaeologists reviewed the footage, and “They’ve been very diligent to say, ‘This is really interesting; these are some neat pictures,'” Dykstra said. “Can we call this the Griffin? Certainly not — not without a lot more information — but these are very compelling.”