Explorer delivers relic for CT scan
GAYLORD, Mich. — Technicians at a northern Michigan hospital used a CT scan machine Saturday to take X-rays of a wooden beam that could be part of the Griffin, a ship commanded by the French explorer La Salle that has been missing for more than three centuries.
The procedure was the latest twist in a decades-old quest by diver and history buff Steve Libert to locate the vessel, which disappeared in 1679 while setting sail from an island near Lake Michigan's Green Bay with a crew of six and a cargo of furs. A dive team retrieved the timber in June while discovering to their disappointment that it wasn't attached to buried wreckage.
They hope the CT scan, which produced images of tree rings inside the beam, will help determine whether it was cut down about the time the Griffin was built. A Cornell University expert in dendrochronology — a scientific technique that uses ring patterns to date trees — has agreed to analyze the images, which were recorded on compact discs.
“It's very important,” Libert said. “Now this comes down to science.”
He said the timber could be the Griffin's bowsprit — a spur or pole that extends from a vessel's stem. Michigan's state archaeologist, Dean Anderson, has said he isn't convinced the beam is part of a ship and contends it could be a stake from a “pound net,” a type of fishing gear used in past centuries.
A small crowd watched, many snapping photos, as crewmen with Libert's Great Lakes Exploration Group unloaded the nearly 20-foot-long timber from a trailer at Otsego Memorial Hospital in Gaylord, about 225 miles northwest of Detroit.
The oak beam has been submerged in water and preservative chemicals. One end is split, and three peglike pieces of wood protrude from the side. Libert said they are “tree nails” and provide further evidence the beam was fashioned by humans.
For the scan, it was wrapped in a permeable fabric and placed inside a cradle made of PVC pipe. Eight men lowered the slab, which weighs about 400 pounds, onto dollies and wheeled it down a hallway to the hospital's radiology section, maneuvering carefully around corners and through doorways. Then they donned rubber gloves and hefted it into the room with the scanning machine.
There, it was placed on an examining table usually occupied by patients being X-rayed to detect cancerous tumors, blockages in blood vessels or other internal ailments. The mechanical table eased one end of the timber — a nearly 5-foot-long section — into the doughnut-shaped scanning machine, where a spinning X-ray camera recorded cross-section images of the interior. Readings were taken about an inch apart for 10 minutes.
The crew then lugged the timber into the hallway, turned it around and took it back for a scan of the other end.
A computer read the images and projected them onto screens in an adjacent room. Tree rings were clearly visible, and radiology director Andy Lanway said technicians counted at least 29. Carol Griggs, the Cornell specialist, has said 50 or more might be needed to determine when the tree was felled by matching ring patterns with those of other trees in the university's archive.
“I'm not sure it's going to be enough,” Libert acknowledged. But he added, “There might be more rings. They might be so tight that we couldn't see them with the naked eye.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Reagan shooter Hinckley closer to permanent freedom
- FBI unit supplied flawed forensics
- Ohio woman finds mother, sister — at work
- GOP invokes Benghazi, Obama in ripping Clinton
- Public access to police body cam videos assailed
- ‘Dr. Oz’ to counter criticisms on air
- Keystone pipeline project gains favor among nearby liberals, study shows
- Holdup of AG vote cast as issue of race
- Dementia patients’ rights considered
- Federal appeals court appears divided on Obama’s immigrant deportation shield
- Cardinal Francis George of Chicago dead at 78