France claims rights to Lake Michigan shipwreck

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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.

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