Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Le Griffon (The Griffon), Phantom Ship on Lake Michigan near Washington Island - Green Bay, Wisconsinv

In 1679 French explorer René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle constructed one of the first full sized sailing ships to sail The Great Lakes, Le Griffon.  This distinction would be short lived as on her return trip during her maiden voyage, Le Griffon disappeared never to be seen again.  According to many eyewitnesses over the centuries however, this doomed ship still sails the waters of Green Bay.
Drawing of the Le Griffon which embarked on it's maiden voyage on The Great Lakes, never to be seen again

Le Griffon departed the Niagara River and made way for Green Bay, sailing waters never before attempted in a vessel of this type.  The waters of The Great Lakes had only previously been navigated by canoe.  The local Native Americans warned La Salle and his crew that the ship was doomed, but they did not heed their warnings. 

At one point in the trek northwest, Le Griffon had to drop anchor and wait for favorable winds to continue their journey, at which point La Salle sent a party ahead by canoe to prepare for the ship's arrival in Green Bay. Finally the winds came and after making a long arduous journey and successfully navigating through the Straits of Mackinac, La Salle and his crew reached Washington Island in Green Bay.  They were greeted by local Natives and the advance party he sent ahead who gathered over six tons of fur to be loaded for the journey back to Niagrara.

Before the ship departed, La Salle had decided to stay behind so that he may return with another party by canoe and explore the lake shores for a passage to the Mississippi River.  He sent the Le Griffon on with instructions for the remaining six man crew.  Le Griffon and her crew were never seen again.

Some claim to have seen the ghostly image of Le Griffon drifting through the foggy waters of Lake Michigan

There have been many theories as to what actually happened to Le Griffon, including being sunk in a massive storm, being scuttled by her crew after they unloaded the cargo of fur and made off with it, being hijacked by local fur traders, to being destroyed by Natives who believed the ship would bring them misfortune.  The remains of the ship were never found to prove or dispel any of these theories, but skeletons were found in a remote cave on a island, lending credence to the story in that it was believed that these could possibly be some of the crew of Le Griffon.  

Over the centuries since Le Griffon was lost, sailors and fishermen claim to have seen a tall masted sailing ship in the foggy waters of Green Bay believed to be the ghostly visage of Le Griffon. When approaching the ship for a closer look, the witnesses find nothing but water and fog. Perhaps the phantom ship Le Griffon is destined to sail the waters of Lake Michigan until the mystery is solved.

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