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The Kalamazoo-area Star Trek club is named USS Gryphon. New chapters of STARFLEET: The International Star Trek Fan Association and of the United Federation of Planets Internationale take on names of fictitious shuttlecraft in STARFLEET, under the guidance of an established chapter. USS Gryphon began as Shuttle Argo under the wing of STARFLEET's USS Krazny Oktyabr. The following article, republished from the July 1995 issue of Gryphon Trek Gazette, discusses history behind the club's choice of USS Gryphon and points out symbology that make its name a good one.

USS Gryphon Is a Meaningful Name
Lt. Ken VanEseltine, USS Gryphon

The crew of Shuttle Argo petitioned STARFLEET to become an Intrepid-class ship of the fleet with three names. The name that STARFLEET approved was USS Gryphon. Do you know what a gryphon is? Why was this name was chosen?

Gryphon: Word and Animal
If you look up the word in the dictionary, you will eventually find an entry something like this:

grif fin \'grif- n\ n [ME griffon, fr. MF grifon, fr. grif, fr. L gryphus, fr. Gk gryp-, gryps, fr. grypos curved; akin to OE cradol cradle] : In Greek mythology, a creature with the head and wings of an eagle and the body of a lion: also spelled gryphon. Also grif fon.

Drawing of a gryphonThe spelling "gryphon" pays homage to the Greek origin of the word for this fantastic animal, as Shuttle Argo honored the Argo of Greek mythology's Jason and his heroic band, the Argonauts, and their quest of the Golden Fleece.

The gryphon is a large, powerful creature. It can take to the sky and soar with its strong and mighty eagle wings.  Sharp eyesight enables it to spot any potential danger from far distances. The lion body provides muscular force with supple grace to dispatch any foe it encounters.

This creature of the air with its excellent sensory equipment, strong propulsion system, and formidable defensive capability seems well suited as a base for a spaceship's name.

Great Lakes History
The name of our vessel, the USS Gryphon, also honors Le Griffon, the first commercial vessel in the New World. René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, built Le Griffon during the summer of 1679 at the mouth of Cayuga Creek, upstream from Niagara Falls on the Niagara River. The barque had two square sails, a high poop, a gilded eagle with spread wings above the quarterdeck, and a silhouetted gryphon springing from its prow. (The gryphon was taken from the arms of Count Frontenac.) Le Griffon was 60 feet long with a 16-foot beam, 7-foot depth, and measured between 45 and 60 tons. It was armed with five small cannons.

Le GriffonOn August 7, 1679, Le Griffon and her crew of 34 set sail across Lake Erie and up the Detroit river. They crossed Lake St. Clair on the day of the festival of St. Claire (that is why they named it Lake St. Clair) and pulled Le Griffon with towlines and aching backs through the St. Clair flats. La Salle and his crew sailed up Lake Huron, through the Straights of Mackinac, and across the top of the Lake of the Illinois (which we know as Lake Michigan--some of their names did not stick), arriving in Green Bay, Wisconsin, in early September.

A great quantity of furs was quickly loaded aboard, and on September 18, Le Griffon's crew fired a parting cannon shot as they sailed out to retrace their path eastward to Lake Erie. Unfortunately, this is where this tale ends. The small ship and her brave, pioneering crew were never seen again.

The crew of Shuttle Argo chose this exciting new design for their new ship, the USS Gryphon. Of course, the most famous Intrepid-class ship is the USS Voyager. But there are other interesting parallels that make the Gryphon's name appropriate.

Intrepid-class USS GryphonThe Intrepid class was developed in the latter half of the 2300's as an exploratory cruiser for the frontier of Federation territory, much as Le Griffon was on the frontier of the French territory in the latter half of the 1600's. The ship is small (although roughly twenty times the length of Le Griffon) with a 344-meter length. It has a 141-meter beam, 94-meter depth, and a displacement of 1.5 million metric tons. The gryphon's eagle wings and Le Griffon's two mainsails are echoed in the Intrepid-class's revolutionary new drive system that feature two variable warp geometry warp nacelles. Le Griffon's five cannons are echoed in the Intrepid-class's five Type X phaser arrays (although the USS Gryphon also features four Mk 80 photon torpedo launchers).

Some incidents leading up to the name of the vessel were accidental and out of the control of Shuttle Argo's crew. It is clear, however, that the USS Gryphon bears a name that her crew can serve under with pride. So go ahead, Gryphon. Spread your wings and sail the stars!

Thanks to Commander Ray Pratt [Commanding Officer of the USS Gryphon at the time] and his family and friends for scouring libraries for references on Le Griffon.

Hauighurst, Walter. The Long Ships Passing. Macmillan, 1975.
Kuttrurf, Karl. Ships of the Great Lakes: A Pictorial History. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1976.
Wallace, Chris. "The Intrepid Class Cruiser: A New Series of Exploratory Cruisers", S
TARFLEET Communiqué, June/July 1995

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