Last summer, a Great Lakes treasure hunter named Steve Libert claimed that he had found the Griffon between Escanaba and the St. Martin Islands, near Wisconsin. During his procedure to arrest the wreck for salvage claims, his permit was rejected by the State of Michigan who claimed that the wreck was theirs. According to their state mandate, all ships found in waters that border their state are Michigan's property. Michigan moved to block Libert's claim in federal court, arguing that state law and the federal Abandoned Shipwreck Act give it ownership of sunken boats of historical significance.
A huge court battle ensued between Libert and the State of Michigan over the rights to the wreck and ownership. Illinois state archaeologists through Chicago's Field Museum have been investigating the wreck site but have been very tight-lipped about their results. Most scientists and researchers feel very dubious of the claim that this ship is the legendary Griffon. Mr. Libert's attorney claim that Libert is "committed to preserving the site" and wants to work with Michigan officials. However, it appears that Mr. Libert has spent enough time, money and energy trying to negotiate with the State of Michigan.
Just this past week, Libert trumped Michigan's claim to the wreck by working with the French government to impose France's claim to the ship. Since the Griffon was commissioned as a French vessel on officially-sanctioned French business, then France's right to the Griffon supercedes that of the State of Michigan. In a somewhat ironic twist, France wants to exert its right to the ship and has commissioned Mr. Libert and his Great Lakes Exploration Group to go forward with their work on the wreck. WOW!
Right now the courts are trying to find out what to do next. No one has worked the wreck site yet this year. U.S. Chief District Judge Robert Holmes Bell told Mr. Libert's attorney to get more details to the state scientists within the next two weeks. Once the details are received, the state will check the site and report back its ruling in July. In the meantime, the story of the Griffon is still shrouded by mystery and now international litigation. We will report more on this story as the the plot thickens.....
Dedicated to LaSalle Senior High School Class of 1965.