Next Meeting: Wednesday, February 28th

The UASC meets the last Wednesday of each month at the Chicago Maritime Museum located at 1200 West 35th Street, Suite OE5010, Chicago, IL 60609. Free event, ALL ARE WELCOME. Refreshments 6:30, Business 7:00, Speaker 8:00.


Underwater Archaeological Society of Chicago



September 2016 Meeting PDF Print E-mail

Underwater Archaeological Society Of Chicago

Meeting Minutes

September 2016

President Bob Rushman called the meeting to order at 7:30 and greeted 18 members. He then gave the treasurer’s report which is that there is $11,104.47 in the account.

Secretary Carol Sommers passed out copies of the minutes so members could refer to them-- If needed--when Bill Messner gave his follow-up presentation on UASC obtaining a boat.

Vice President Dean Nolan reported on the second half of the NAS course which was completed by six UASC members at Haigh Quarry last Saturday. Murky water conditions and the difficulty of anchoring anything to the bottom made it a challenge to complete the exercises learned on land. The fourth dive was cancelled because it was thought that a diver was lost in the quarry. The authorities asked for help and Dave Thompson and Scott Reimer donned tanks and searched in the requested area but visibility was less than a foot. The lost diver was later found safe and sound on land, but everyone’s dive day was shortened.

ICSSD President’s night tickets are available for $35.

The September 17th beach clean-up was done by Dean and Don on the Moreland, Steve at Montrose Harbor and Claire at Greenwood Beach.


The member presentation by Bill Messner was on “Building UASC Membership Through Increased opportunities for Dive Training”. He said that the Great Lakes Shipwreck Preservation Society is a good model with an activity calendar published a year in advance. They even dive under ice, have activities for non-divers and have their own convention which is about the size of Ghostships. This is possible because they have their own boat and 501C3 status which encourages donations because of tax advantages. Bill showed us a photo of the boat which we could use if we join the Freedom Boat Club.

The boat is only 3 years old and could accommodate 8-10 tanks and is powered by a single 250HP Yahama. The cost would be $5-6 per diver if UASC is a member. A larger Tritoon could be a future possibility, but members discussed the fact it can only be used in extremely calm weather on Lake Michigan. It could accommodate 8 divers and has twin Yahama 150HP motors. Five more dive clubs would need to join to make this feasible. The Freedom Boat Club would amortize UASC’s entry fee over three years so it would be about $1,650 per year plus the monthly fee. They are giving us a $2,500 discount. This provides training for two skippers who would have access to all Freedom Club boats (USA & Canada). For $100 more per month and $1,500, two more can be trained. All members could reserve the boat and just have to pay for the fuel. One source of funds could be a “Boat Fund Raise” but UASC would first need to reorganize its charter to follow the State of Illinois by-laws and then obtain 5013C status. Bill will help with the former. Another way would be to have a “diveboat membership” in addition to a regular category where one would sign up at the rate of ten dollars more per month and have year-round access to a boat. The total cost above and beyond the regular membership would be the same as paying a dive company for one charter which is $120. If only forty members have this type of membership, all costs of having a boat would be paid. To encourage recruits, dives could have different activities such as teaching archaeology, boat diving skills, buoyancy skills, survey skills and advanced survey skills. There could be social trips to check out new areas or to watch the fireworks. A recruiting tool could be that anyone becoming a regular member would be able to dive for a full day with UASC for $10. (If they want to, they could become “diveboat members.) UASC should advertise on its website, at dive shows and by presenting at other dive clubs. In the ensuing discussion, we need to get “quarry” divers interested in Lake Michigan dives. Also Dave Truitt’s authorization is needed to work on the 501C3. John Bell has tried in the past, but will try again. Dean Nolan brought up the point that the present forty-dollar membership fee is too high and also that an alternative to the Freedom Boat Club plan would be to take better advantage of currently operating dive charters. John Bell agreed with this, stating that it is not the lack of boats (since members have boats) but we should take sufficient advantage of the resources that we have.


The second member presentation was by Carol Sommers with the help of Scott, Dean, Colin and Don. Everyone was given a handout based on what was taught at the NAS course. A twenty-five foot baseline tape measure was put on the floor with “artifacts” (pieces of wood, pots, etc.) scattered by it. Members in groups of two were taught to do an offset survey using another tape measure. Trilateration will be taught at the November meeting.


Speaker – Rich Gross, the historian for Great Lakes Exploration Group which is headed by Steve Libert, talked about the search for the Griffon. Rich has been studying LaSalle ever since he was in a 1974 reenactment of LaSalle’s expedition. He maintains that there have been so many “discoveries” of the wreck in the last 120 years because no accurate research was ever done and many thought any shipwreck found might be that of the Griffon. One problem was that everyone believed the account Father Hennepin wrote in which he tried to get credit for LaSalle’s work. He was banished from France and supported by the British in his claim that he was on the Mississippi first because if it were true, that would give the area to England. Rich’s research was based on letters and documents from LaSalle, Henri de Tonti, La Motte de Luciere and Claude Bernou, LaSalle’s agent. The book Voiles et Volliers Au Temps de Louis XIV contains accurate drawings of LaBelle, another of LaSalle’s ships. King Louis XIV wanted to be familiar with his fleet and ordered the drawings to be done. La Belle has been found in Texas, intact up to the waterline, and is located in a museum built for it-- the Bob Bullock Museum in Austin, Texas. Although it belongs to the French government, being a royal ship, the French desired it to stay here since it is part of American history. They would probably do the same with the Griffon and have already collaborated with research on what is thought to be the bowsprit. Comparing La Belle with the bowsprit thought to be of the Griffon which GLEG has found shows many similarities. La Belle had a tonnage (measure of inside volume) of 45, keel 45 feet, width 14 feet and the Griffon’s numbers were 40, 42 and 12. Typical barques longues (translation long ship) had a foremast with a 16 foot square sail and topsail, a mainmast with 21 square foot sail and topsail and a mizzin mast with a lateen sail. There was a sail attached to the bowsprit. The one found is the correct proportion. Both had a cabin in the stern. On a 1668 map drawn by LaSalle’s cartographer, Franquelin, there is an illustration matching this description. LaSalle sailed from France with all the hardware necessary to build two ships, the Griffon and another one in order to sail down the Illinois River to the Mississippi and claim it for France. He even brought bricklayers with him in order to build a fort at the mouth of the Mississippi. The Jesuits, who had a fur trade with the Indians, did not want him to do this so orchestrated the Iroquois attach against the Illini, a war which stopped construction of the second ship. The Griffon was a commercial vessel built to move men and materials from Niagara to St. Joseph, Michigan in order to build a fort. The Manitoulin Island Wreck is totally disproven as being the Griffon because it has a flat bottom, is 20 feet wide, has round-headed nails dating from the late 18th or early 19th century, threaded bolts (non-extant in the 17 th century), sheathing instead of caulking and no fibers were wound around nails. Falsehoods about the Griffon abound. Father Hennepin did not drive the first bolt—he wasn’t there. The Griffon had no cannon, but 7 iron rail guns which were 150 pounds each and easily moved. It was not fully loaded with furs, having just had four canoe loads. It was not undermanned because it was sent back with a crew of six whereas usually only 4 or 5 crew are needed. There was no figurehead since a barque longue was considered a working ship, sort of as a pick-up truck. The bowsprit has three tapered tree nails wedged in on both sides and the scarf was covered with pitch to waterproof it, just as it was done in France. The side was marked with Roman numerals, as was La Belle and F was stamped on the face of the scarf. Eyewitnesses saw the ship sail into the storm out of Green Bay, so the location was correct. Unfortunately, carbon 14 dating cannot be accurate because of solar flares. LaSalle was the governor of Fort Frontenac, a commandant who was a military guy working for the king, so there is absolutely no doubt that the Griffon is French property. The ship cost five to ten million dollars to build in today’s money. LaSalle had wanted to start a market in bison hides using St. Joseph Michigan as a port. It was an easy six-miles portage through South Bend, Indiana. (Chicago was a difficult portage since it had Mud Lake.) Unfortunately, a fishing trawler destroyed the entire area where the bowsprit was found, including drums which had been sunk as markers. A positive note is that the bowsprits were lashed onto ships because they broke off easily and then it was simple to replace them. There’s a possibility it may have broken off and the ship is elsewhere. It was found seventy feet deep and buried 9 feet deep, but given that there are two feet of mussels and then centuries of sediment, the depth is not unusual. It is only 8 inches in diameter so cannot be pond net stakes which are 24 inches in diameter and not driven into the lakebed at that depth. Rich will be retiring from his high school teaching job in May, so will be able to devote May through October searching for the rest of the ship. Great Lakes Exploration Group now has their own boat and sensors so will be able to look for much longer that the typical two weeks per year that they had before.


The next meeting will feature Norman Krentel who will talk about the Michigan Interurban railways and their relation to the Eastland.


Minutes respectfully submitted by Carol Sommers

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