Niagara Gazette — Taking part in the dive Saturday were Michel L'Hour, director of the Department of Underwater Archaeological Research in the French Ministry of Culture and a noted authority on shipwrecks, and associate Olivia Hulot. The U.S. leaders said they hoped the visitors, with their knowledge of design and construction features of French ships from the 17th and 18th century, could help confirm whether the Griffin had been found.
"The Griffin is very important to the early history of America," L'Hour said in an interview before taking his first look at the site. "If this is the Griffin, it will teach us many things."
Rene Robert Cavelier de la Salle ordered the Griffin built near Niagara Falls in 1679 to support his quest for what was widely — but erroneously — believed to be a passageway to China and Japan. It was the first European-style vessel to traverse the upper Great Lakes, crossing Lake Erie and venturing northward to Lake Huron, then across Lake Michigan to the eastern shore of modern-day Wisconsin.
La Salle ordered the ship to return for more supplies and to deliver a load of furs, while he continued his journey by canoe. The Griffin was never heard from again. There are various theories about its fate, but none that have been proven. Libert, who spent years studying the writings of La Salle and a companion, believes it sank in a fierce storm only a few miles after setting sail.
Libert said Saturday the recovery of the slab of wood and prospects for reaching what may be the ship's hull shortly were promising signs.
"Right now I'm pretty excited, from what I know so far," he said, but added: "Scientific (proof) is 100 percent. It's not 99.9 percent."