FAIRPORT, Mich. - Some of the top archaeologists in France dove into Lake Michigan Saturday, as work continues to identify the 17th century ship Le Griffon.
The ship, which belonged to French explorer Robert La Salle, disappeared more than 300 years ago after it left Washington Island.
This weekend the Great Lakes Exploration Group is stationed in Fairport, Mich., hoping to positively identify the long lost ship.
As France's top underwater archeologist, it's up to Michele L'Hour to help determine if Le Griffon has finally been found.
"We want to find some details of the architecture of the ship or some artifacts that can testify that this is a wreck and that this wreck is the Griffon," said L'Hour. "It is why we are here."
L'Hour and Olivia Hulot dove into Lake Michigan for the first time Saturday. They looked near a timber jutting out of the lake bed that Steve Libert believes is part of Le Griffon. Libert found it in 2001 after looking for the ship since 1981.
"It could be what we think it is, but we don't know for sure until its 100 percent positively identified, a scientific identification, which is 100 percent," said Libert.
It took more than a decade of legal and political battles to get the French archaeologists at the possible shipwreck site. Now that they are in Michigan, everyone involved is being cautious before making any sort of proclamation.
"If it is Le Griffon, it's one of the most significant maritime casualties in the Great Lakes," said Ken Vrana, the project's manager.
For the past two days, commercial divers have been dredging in the area, hoping to give archaeologists a better look. Soon, they expect to reach the ship's deck, which should reveal more to the divers. Vrana says the crew has dredged through five feet of quagga mussels.
"Maybe in less than ten minutes tomorrow we can find some artifacts, which is proof of maybe we have to wait one week," said L'Hour. "Nobody knows. That's a challenge."
The exploration group did find one cultural artifact while diving on Saturday.
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