A legal battle over what might be the most historic shipwreck in the Great Lakes is over, for now. That means further exploration of the wreck, which is buried in the bottom of Lake Michigan, could pick up again.
About a decade ago a shipwreck hunter working out of Charlevoix found what he says might be The Griffon. That was the ship owned by French explorer Robert de La Salle that disappeared in 1679. But a legal battle involving the State of Michigan and the French government ensued that has slowed attempts to identify the ship.
Now the federal judge handling the case says it appears the parties are working cooperatively and the court can close the matter. The man who discovered the wreck, Steve Libert, says closing the court case will make it easier to proceed with more study of the wreck.
His team might be ready to start excavating the ship next year but that will require a state permit. Libert has long accused the state of trying to steal his discovery and make it a government project. If it is The Griffon, it will ultimately be up to the French to decide what happens to the wreck.
The Griffon is thought to be the first European sailing vessel built in the Great Lakes. It disappeared, loaded with furs, in September of 1679. The discovery has been tied up in court since 2004.