‘Holy grail’ shipwreck haunted by doomed crew finally discovered 350 years later

A 'haunted' shipwreck that sunk in one of America's great lakes 350 years ago has finally been found following years of failed search attempts.

The Griffin descended to the bottom of Lake Michigan during its maiden voyage in 1679 and was dubbed the "holy grail" by curious shipwreck hunters after it disappeared.

The incredible find has brought an end to a maritime mystery following fears from frightened natives that it had been cursed due to a claim by a French explorer, reports the Express.

Explorer René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle, was not on board for the horror sinking but said a prophet from the native North American Iroquois tribe issued a warning to him before it departed.

The prophet apparently told him: "Beware! Darkness like a cloud is ready to envelop you.

"The Christian Indian's curse rests on you and on your great canoe. She will sink beneath the deep waters and your blood shall stain the hands of those in whom you trusted!"

Steve and Kathie Libert, a husband and wife team, determined that a wreck found in 2018 near the Poverty Island in Lake Michigan, was likely that of the mysterious Griffin.

Native traditions say The Griffin became a ghost ship, and the crew can still be heard chanting as she sails among the clouds under the light of the moon.

But the wreckage suggests the most plausible theory was that the ship was lost in a storm, and the cargo furs, estimated at up to $12,000 at the time– £640,000 in modern day money – sank with her.

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The bowsprit is believed to have broken off and sank a few miles before the rest of the ship went down.

Carbon dating studies of the bowsprit put the age of the ship within a year of the boat's construction.

Mr Libert said: "Father Louis Hennepin said it was lost in a violent storm. Some say that the native Indians boarded the ship and killed the crew. They then set the ship on fire.

"Many believed the Jesuits were responsible for the ship's disappearance.

"La Salle was certain that the captain and his men committed mutiny, sank the ship and absconded with all the furs."

Mr Libert added: “The ship has no indications of fire damage to the wooden remains. We are confident the ship was wrecked due to a severe storm.

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“The distance of 3.8 miles between the bowsprit and main sections highly suggests the Indians did not sink it either, nor did La Salle’s men mutiny and sink the ship.

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

The Griffin, Mr Libert believes, was caught in 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 wreckage, meanwhile, had been dated to between 1632 and 1982.

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Mr Libert added: "Both the Seneca and Iroquois felt threatened by the construction and sight of Le Griffon, and felt that it was a threat to the 'Great Spirit'.

"The Seneca were in awe of the French for having built such a large canoe. They were concerned for their safety in as much that they tried to burn the ship during construction."

After the discovery of the bowsprit, a 10-year legal battle with the State of Michigan prevented explorers from excavating the rest of the ship.

Only then did Mr Libert and various archaeologists discover that the bowsprit and the remainder of the vessel were separate.

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

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He recalled: “I was emotionally drained of all my energy, and was in a complete state of relief and exhaustion, but I could still yell out the words ‘We found it!’ once I broke the surface.”

The State of Michigan continues to prevent an in-depth excavation.

According to Mr Libert, the state “feels we are encroaching upon their sovereignty and feels we are nothing more than treasure hunters intruding on the rights of academia and archaeologists”.

The Liberts have since written a book about their findings, Le Griffon and the Huron Islands – 1679: Our Story of Exploration and Discovery.

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