“Le Griffon” Discovered… Again

Here we go again – another shipwreck “discovery” is picked up uncritically by the national media.


You can read about the Le Griffon on Wikipedia, but here’s a quick summary. She was built in the late 1600’s by Cavelier during his attempt to find the Northwest Passage. The ship disappeared en route and has been sought-after ever since.

All the typical red flags you can think of are there. The divers were looking for lost Confederate gold (a HUGE red flag, credibility-wise), just so happened to stumble on one of the most important historical shipwrecks in the area… a shipwreck that has apparently been “found” multiple times. Oh, and there are plenty of lawsuits to go around as well.

The evidence they’ve presented is laughable. They’ve found a hand-forged nail “dating to 1679.” Really? May I ask what process was used to date the nail so specifically, or did they simply assign the same year that the Le Griffon was lost to this highly ordinary artifact? Nails are not known for being particularly useful in the process of dating shipwrecks.

The “photo overlay” is equally suspect. They’ve taken what may or may not be a bowstem and placed a photo of a carved griffon on top of it. From a logical standpoint, it’s the exact opposite from a proper approach. If they had a period representation (painting, drawing, woodcut, etc) and then analyzed the wreckage in relation, maybe they’d have something… maybe. The vintage is a little old to glean much from that type of process. But instead, they took a photo of part of the wreckage (which may or may not be the bowstem) and looked at pictures of carved griffons until they found one that more-or-less matched.

Digital Camera
Does this look like a griffon to you?

There are some basic procedures that must occur before such high-profile platforms are given for these discoveries. Has a trained archaeologist examined the claim? Has a site-wide survey or photo-mosaic been performed? Are the artifacts or wreckage unique, or common to an era/area?

Ultimately, I’m not saying they didn’t find it. What I am saying is that the level of evidence has no relation to the amount of media attention this “find” has received. I don’t see any real shipwreck experts interviewed for any of the many news stories.

Let’s put this another way. Would the media provide a platform for an amateur detective to announce that they’ve found Jimmy Hoffa just because they stumbled across a skeleton in the woods? Or would they demand that an expert be consulted, DNA collected, forensics examined?

Actually, don’t answer that question… I’m still not sure if I want to hear the answer.


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