Expedition Planned to 300-Year-Old Shipwreck Carrying $20 Billion In Gold and Emeralds


In 2015 a 300-year-old shipwreck discovered in the Caribbean was confirmed to be that of the famous Spanish galleon San José. Known as the "Holy Grail of Shipwrecks", the wreck is believed to contain a treasure trove of emeralds, gold and silver coins worth $20 billion. The Colombian government has revealed that it intends to conduct an underwater expedition to the site, in the hope of retrieving some items.

spanish galleon san jose

San José was a 64-gun, three-masted galleon that served in the Spanish Armada de la Guardia de la Carrera de las Indias. She was launched in 1698, and along with her twin ship, San Joaquin, was part of the Treasure Fleet during the War of the Spanish Succession. During the conflict, she was tasked with transporting valuable goods from Spanish territories to the Americas across the Atlantic.

In 1708, San José was loaded with 116 chests filled with emeralds, seven million pesos, and 30 million gold coins, worth $20 billion. En route to Cartagena, he and the fleet ran into an English squadron and engaged in battle. Unfortunately, the Spanish lost the naval battle and San José sank to a depth of 600 meters. Of the 600 people on board, only 11 were lucky enough to survive.

The wreck of the San José was first discovered off the coast of Cartagena in 2015. The team of international researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and Maritime Archeology Consultants (MAC) were traveling to the area aboard the Colombian Navy research ship ARC Malpelo. ) used the autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) REMUS 6000 to survey the area where the wreck was believed to be located.

"REMUS 6000 was the ideal instrument for this job, as it is capable of conducting long-duration missions over wide areas," Mike Purcell, campaign leader and an engineer at WHOI, said in a press release.

After months of searching, the team was able to locate the wreckage of the San Jose, Purcell said, "The wreckage was partially covered by sediment, but with camera images from low-altitude missions, we were able to see new details in it." The debris was able to make out the decorative carvings on the cannons and the resolution was good enough.''

A new expedition is scheduled to take place in the spring of 2024, with the Colombian government set to invest approximately $4.5 million to explore the wreck. This new research mission will use state-of-the-art technology to survey and collect as much information as possible about the condition of the San José, so the team can evaluate whether it is possible to raise the sunken galleon.

Oceanographer and Rear Admiral Hermann Leon Rickon said the journey would require the use of Navy ships, underwater robotic technology and high-quality cameras that could track movement.

Since the discovery of the San Jose wreck in 2015, the question of ownership has created many problems. Some groups claim to have discovered the wreck as early as 1982, and claim 50 percent of the value of the treasure contained in the sunken galleon. The Colombian government has been embroiled in legal and diplomatic disputes as ownership claims have also come from the United States and Spain.

The Colombian authorities have made several statements assuring that their intention is for ancestral reasons, and not for the treasure that is believed to be with the wreck. Carlos Reina Martínez, archaeologist and underwater cultural heritage expert at the Colombian Institute of Archeology and History (ICANH), explained that the purpose of the expedition was to uncover the realities of the 589 people who drowned when the galleon sank, including nature. Was also included. Of their deaths.

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The Colombian government intends to build a museum in dedication to San José to publicly display material recovered from the wreck, including canons, ceramics, and other artifacts. They also intend to build a world-class conservation laboratory to preserve the objects they plan to display in the facility.

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