Explorers discover that the ‘holy grail’ of shipwrecks in the deep water is not alone. Images from a centuries-old galleon destroyed by enemy forces reveal unique, never-before-seen treasures in addition to a billion-dollar bounty.
During the War of the Spanish Succession, the galleon San José was lost. It sank off the coast of Cartagena, Colombia, in 1708, carrying billions in stolen treasure, but its whereabouts were unknown until 2015. Officials have just released the most detailed photographs of the wreckage yet, as well as news of the discovery of two more shipwrecks nearby.
Historians and underwater archaeologists alike have dubbed the San José “the holy grail of shipwrecks,” as it contained one of the greatest cargoes of treasures ever lost at sea. Colombia’s Navy astonishingly discovered it with remotely operated underwater vehicles more than three centuries later, according to the BBC.
The site is littered with millions of gold doubloons, silver coins, and emeralds plucked from South America by the Spanish. Archaeologists are currently investigating the cargo, which might be worth up to $17 billion. Meanwhile, they’ve been drawn to the wrecks of at least two additional ships.
According to Heritage Daily, Colombian President Iván Duque stated, “We have already uncovered two further vessels: one from the colonial period and another that, based on early investigation, relates to the Republican period of our history.”
According to Sky News, the colonial vessel is most likely another Spanish boat from the late 18th or early 19th century, while the second shipwreck appears to be a Colombian schooner from the country’s 1819 battle for independence from Spain.
Surprisingly, the Colombian Navy was not seeking for new shipwrecks when they discovered the disaster. Instead, they were surveying the wreckage and riches from the San José, which was designed to secure King Philip V of Spain’s finances during the War of the Spanish Succession.
With the death of Charles II in 1700, the War of the Spanish Succession began. He was the last of the Spanish Habsburgs, and he died without an heir, igniting a power war between his dynastic line and Philip’s House of Bourbon. The struggle, which lasted until Philip V’s victory in 1714, eventually led to the creation of the British Empire, which took advantage of the disarray.
Before setting sail in the Caribbean during the height of the fight, the San José was a three-masted, 64-gun galleon with 600 men aboard and over 200 tons of looted gold, silver, and emeralds, as well as Chinese china, ceramics, and cannons, according to Newsweek.
The galleon was only discovered in 2015, despite the fact that it sank off the coast of Cartagena. Officials have yet to reveal its location because salvage rights are still in dispute between Colombia, Spain, and the Bolivian Qhara Qhara nation, who claims ownership of the treasure because Spain unjustly plunders it from their forefathers.
While the legal battles continue, President Duque believes the ship is still fascinating, praising the Navy for obtaining “pictures with a degree of precision never seen before.”
Colombian naval officers utilized a remotely operated submersible equipped with high-definition cameras to discover the debris 3,000 feet beneath the surface of the ocean.
The government’s high-tech equipment was dropped into the ocean to retrieve this treasure trove of relics, according to the clip. Swords that had previously been carried by the sailors, teacups, clay utensils, and a linty of rare coins were among the cargo. The ship was in excellent shape, according to a statement from the Colombian Armed Command.
“In a non-intrusive observation work carried out at the site where the Galleon San Jose rests, the Colombian Navy and the General Maritime Directorate, under the guidelines of the Presidency of the Republic during the last two years, has verified that it has not suffered intervention or alterations by human action,” the statement read.
While military archaeologists examine the inscriptions to identify where the cargo originated, President Duque has vowed unequivocally that the ship and her contents will remain in Colombia and will not be sold to the highest bidder.
The same may be stated about the debris of the two other ships discovered recently by the Navy, he said. “These wrecks show other prospects for archaeological study,” says Navy Commander Admiral Gabriel Perez. As a result, the job has only barely begun.”
Perhaps most intriguing of all, President Duque announced that the Colombian Navy is currently investigating at least 12 more vessels in the area.