Lost Shipwreck Worth Billions Revealed

A Spanish galleon discovered off the coast of Columbia is believed to contain a vast collection of treasure worth an estimated $17 billion. Photos released by the Columbian army show some of the millions of gold coins the wreck is believed to hold, along with silver, emeralds, Chinese porcelain, and other treasures. The location of the shipwreck has been known for years, but the fate of the wreck and the treasure has been a touchy subject and exploration has been limited.

Shipwreck described as “holy grail”

The San José has been a highly prized wreck thanks to its reputation as a “holy grail of shipwrecks” for treasure hunters aware of the vast stores of gold and silver on board when it sank.

Launched in 1698 in Spain, San José had only a short ten year career before it met its end near Cartagena in 1708.

The War of the Spanish Succession, better known in the United States as Queen Anne’s War, saw the United Kingdom and her American colonies taking part in a coalition opposed to France and Spain.

San José was escorting a large treasure fleet traveling from South America to Spain when the fleet was intercepted in the Caribbean by a small squadron under Sir Charles Wager of the Royal Navy.

The Spaniards were badly beaten in the ensuing battle but Wager failed to capture San José, which exploded when its powder magazines detonated and sank with all of the treasure and most of its 600 man crew.

All of that treasure has sat on the seafloor through the ensuing 300 years, and now that it has been rediscovered San José has already found itself at the center of a different kind of battle.

Treasure waits to be recovered

An American salvage company first claimed to have discovered the wreck in the 1980s, though they won only decades of legal headache for their troubles.

Columbia finally discovered the valuable shipwreck in 2015, and the government quickly moved to ensure that no one would have access to the site without their permission.

The country has claimed the shipwreck as its national heritage, as it is located in their national waters and the state already has legislation on the books declaring that the treasure is its property.

Nothing has been removed from the seafloor yet, and the focus so far has been on research and exploration rather than extraction.

That has staved off some of the expected trouble, but now that the estimated value of the treasure has become public knowledge Columbia can expect more controversy as others seek to claim a share.

Two other wrecks were discovered nearby in the process of exploring San José, including a schooner believed to date from the time of Columbia’s war for independence in 1819.

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