Skip to comments.France Says it Owns Legendary Vessel (Court Case Over 17th Century Ship in Lake Michigan)
Posted on 02/02/2009 10:57:34 AM PST by nickcarraway
TRAVERSE CITY - The French government says it still owns the Griffin, a 17th century ship built by legendary explorer La Salle that may have been discovered in northern Lake Michigan.
France filed a claim to the vessel Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids, escalating a legal battle over who owns and has authority to retrieve artifacts from the long-lost vessel.
Michigan also is seeking title, although state officials have raised doubts about whether the Griffin's gravesite actually has been found. They say federal law gives the state ownership of abandoned vessels embedded in its Great Lakes bottomlands.
A private group, Great Lakes Exploration LLC, located what it contends may be the Griffin's wreckage in 2001. It wants to be appointed custodian until the courts determine ownership and salvage rights.
The precise site has not been publicly revealed, but is believed to be between Escanaba and the St. Martin Islands, near Wisconsin.
The Griffin (also spelled ''Griffon'') disappeared on its maiden voyage in 1679 after embarking from an island near Green Bay, Wis., with a crew of six and a cargo of furs and other goods.
France filed paperwork with the court this week to meet a deadline for avoiding loss of rights to the ship, a spokesman for the French embassy in Washington said Thursday.
The claim is based on documents showing the fatal expedition was undertaken on behalf of the French crown and was not a private venture, the spokesman said.
Steve Libert, spokesman for Great Lakes Exploration, backs the claim.
''Michigan isn't fighting just me any more. They're fighting the country of France,'' he said.
Matt Frendewey, spokesman for the Michigan attorney general's office, said state officials were reviewing the French court filing and would respond later.
In a motion filed last month, Michigan asked federal judge Robert Holmes Bell to declare the wreckage - if it exists - state property. Assistant Attorney General Louis Reinwasser said divers visited the site in October and found only a timber protruding from the lake bottom.
Ken Vrana, director of the Lansing-based Maritime Center, said a sonar examination of the site in 2006 detected numerous artifacts on the bottom and embedded in sediments.
His nonprofit scientific and educational organization is working with Libert on plans for a remote sensing expedition this summer in hopes of identifying the artifacts. France's director of underwater archaeology has endorsed the mission, Vrana said.
''I would still love to do it on a cooperative basis with the state of Michigan and I'm perplexed as to why they are resisting,'' he said.
I thought that the French lost in the French and Indian War. Do they still own Lake Michigan? I think it is outrageous when foreign governments claim ownership of vessels long ago sunk in international waters. This case provides a new dimension to the outrageous claims.
If its in US water, its ours. The Ed Fitz is in Canadian water. They have domain.
I say let France have the damn thing. First though, there’s this little matter of rent....
OK, I give up. Properly speaking this ought to be turned over to the French King. When he turns up, call me.
Isn’t there a statute of limitations on stuff like this?
The reason why the Fwench are interested and in a fighting mood (the irony) is that there is something of value buried WITHIN the ship, hence the argument it’s theirs.
He cannot speak to you because his head is missing. Maybe his queen can speak with you. Oops. Her head is also missing.
so that’ll be 4 centuries of rent then
Lake Michigan is not “International Waters”. It lies wholly within the United States and borders Michigan, Illinois and Wisconsin. None of the Great Lakes are International Waters, they belong either to the US or Canada.
It just goes to show.........if you find it, just shut up and dig it up or every greedy governmental body in the world will claim that it belongs to them.
The concept behind this was that 'sovereign' wrecks (ie. governmentally owned or chartered) remain owned to protect as graveyards and memorials. If the late Mel Fisher, salvor of the Spanish "Nuestra Señora de Atocha" (1622), were to discover the ship today it is probable he could not have salvaged it without the cooperation of the Spanish Government.
In international waters it becomes more dicey as not every shipwreck is readily identifiable. A US Treasure Hunting company, Odyssey Marine, is in legal battle with Spain over treasure recovered from the international waters in the Atlantic known as the "Black Swan Project". The number of governmental 'toes' being negotiated is enough to make you wonder if anybody other than lawyers will win in the end of this case.
LOL, I was thinking the same thing, storage fees, plus interest and penalties for late payments.
“In 1998 the US Courts ruled on 2 Spanish shipwrecks in Virginia waters, Juno (1802) & La Galga (1750), that they remained Spanish ownership because the Spanish Government had never abandoned ‘title’.”
What is being said here is that U.S. shot itself in the foot again.
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Damn troublemaking surrender monkeys. Sick a couple of fifth graders on 'em, they'll back down.
WHICH French “government” (and I use the term loosely) claims it?
1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th Republic?
5th Column-—I mean Republic?
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