14 July 2024 The Future is the Product of the Past

‘Holy Grail of shipwrecks’ worth $20 billion in treasure to be raised from seabed

A treasure ship described as the “holy grail of shipwrecks” will reportedly be lifted from the sea floor where it has lay for more than 300 years. Now, the Colombian government has said it will be raised before President Gustavo Petro ends his term of office in 2026.

The shipwreck containing up to 200 tons of gold, silver, and emeralds could be floating on the Caribbean within months after Colombia declared a national mission to recover the treasure.

The ship’s cargo of gold, silver, gemstones, and antiques is speculatively valued at up to $20 billion.

The San José was a 64-gun, three-mast galleon launched by Spain in 1698. The galleon was part of the fleet of King Philip V when it was sunk by the Royal Navy in 1708 during the War of Spanish Succession. Now, the San Jose galleon has been declared a national mission, 315 years after a ship off the Colombian port of Cartagena tragically sank.

On board, not only were there treasures valued at approximately $20 billion in today’s currency, there were also 600 sailors, with only 11 survivors among them, reports The Daily Mail.

Eleven million gold coins are thought to have been on board. Photo: EPA
Eleven million gold coins are thought to have been on board. Photo: EPA

In December 2015, Colombia declared a team of navy divers had found the San José, footage of which found its way to the news. The well-preserved shipwreck was reportedly found in 3,100 feet of water, with much of its cargo visibly intact.

So far, gold ingots, Chinese ceramics and tableware, and the ship’s cannons, which were cast in Seville in 1655, have been discovered in the depths. Of the most interest of course is the ship’s coffers of 11 million gold coins.

President Gustavo Petro ordered his administration to exhume the “holy grail of shipwrecks” – the Spanish galleon San José – from the bottom of the Caribbean Sea as soon as possible.

Petro hopes to bring the 62-gun, three-masted ship to the surface before his term is up in 2026 and has requested a public-private partnership be formed to see it through, Minister of Culture Juan David Correa told Bloomberg last week.

However, multiple parties have laid claim to the cargo, one of whom has brought Colombia to arbitration in London.

Vanity Fair reports that a group of U.S. investors operating as Glocca Morra, later Sea Search Armada, claim to have signed a salvage contract entitling them to half the ship’s cargo in 1979. The group alleges it found the San José in 1981 at a depth of around 660 feet, and provided Colombia officials with coordinates. Colombia disputes this, claiming the shipwreck was not found at the coordinates provided.

Spain, which originally owned the vessel and its forcibly extracted cargo, is also said to have attempted to claim the bounty. Also, the Qhara Qhara indigenous group in present-day Bolivia says they should get the treasure since Spanish colonizers forced their ancestors to mine some of the precious metals they say were aboard.

Cover Photo: Colombian Armada

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