GRAND RAPIDS — A Grand Valley State University alumnus is working with a team of international underwater archaeologists on a site they hope to prove is the final resting place of the oldest known shipwreck in the upper Great Lakes.

David J. Ruck, a Grand Valley alumnus, filmmaker and educator from Whitehall, is the producer/cinematographer and underwater cinematographer on the expedition, which he has been involved with for two years.

Le Griffon was built and commanded by the legendary French explorer Rene-Robert Sieur de La Salle, on behalf of King Louis XIV. Carrying a crew of six and a cargo of furs, the ship went missing during its maiden voyage in September 1679, after departing from the area near present-day Green Bay, Wis.

After years of red tape, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the state archaeologist’s office recently approved a plan by Great Lakes Exploration Group to conduct a test excavation at a remote site in northern Lake Michigan. Members of the exploration group believe they have found the wreck, currently only a White Oak beam sticking out of the lake’s bottomlands. 

“My goal for the project is to tell the amazing story of La Salle, the Griffon, and the 330-year journey to understand how it sank — and where,” said Ruck. “The scientists involved have worked on numerous wrecks around the world, including the Titanic, Edmund Fitzgerald and the Lusitania.”

Ruck received both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Grand Valley’s School of Communications in 2004 and 2007, respectively, and recently earned a Master of Fine Arts from The American University, in Washington, D.C. He currently lives in Bethesda, Maryland, and is president of Rubangfilms, a small production company that focuses on subjects that involve science, exploration, history and space.

“We are still in negotiations with some rather prestigious production companies from around the world and I can certainly hope that efforts to that end are successful as well,” Ruck said. “I’ll be supplying underwater footage to the news networks. NPR, FOX and the AP will be on-site.”

Visit to learn more about Ruck and the expedition.


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