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GreekReporter.comHistoryExpedition to Recover $20B Gold Treasure from San Jose Shipwreck Begins

Expedition to Recover $20B Gold Treasure from San Jose Shipwreck Begins

San Jose Shipwreck gold treasure
San Jose galleon shipwreck is believed to have been carrying 200 tons of treasure, including gold, silver, and emeralds. Credit: Colombian Presidency

The Colombian government has announced the launch of an underwater recovery expedition to salvage treasures from the San Jose galleon, a historic shipwreck lying off the coast of Cartagena.

Often referred to as the “Holy Grail of shipwrecks,” it is believed to have been carrying 200 tons of treasure, including gold, silver, and emeralds. This initiative, set to begin with the aid of advanced robotic technology, specifically involves deploying an underwater robot to recover its bounty.

San Jose: the Spanish shipwreck that holds $20B gold treasure

The San José, a 62-cannon, three-masted Spanish galleon, met its watery grave on June 8, 1708, during a fierce battle against the British in the War of Spanish Succession. With approximately 600 men aboard, the ship sank near the Colombian port of Cartagena, taking down an estimated 200 tons of gold, silver, and emeralds from the mines of the Viceroyalty of Peru.

The wreck is estimated to be worth billions of dollars based on speculation that it had up to 11 million 4-doubloons (i.e., 11 million 8 escudos gold coins or 11 million coins, each weighing 27 grams of 92% gold, totaling 8.8 million troy ounces AGW, or $11.5 billion) and many silver coins on board at the time of its sinking, similar to its surviving sister ship, San Joaquín.

That would make the multi-deck vessel among the richest sunken ships ever discovered. The silver and gold are from the mines of Potosí, Bolivia. For years, the San José was the subject of lore and speculation until a team of Colombian navy divers, under the auspices of the government, discovered the wreck in 2015, lying at about 3,100 feet deep.

San Jose Shipwreck
Released photos of the 300-year-old San Jose shipwreck, thought to contain billions of dollars in gold coins and other treasure. Credit: Armada de Colombia

The Historical Significance of the San Jose Galleon

The San Jose galleon is not just a shipwreck with treasures; it is a floating testament to the maritime prowess and economic ambitions of the Spanish Empire in the 18th century. Its sinking was a pivotal moment in the War of Spanish Succession, affecting the global balance of power at the time. The ship’s cargo was intended to finance the Spanish crown’s military campaigns in Europe.

Legal and Ethical Considerations of the

The lifting of the San José wreck, which sank more than 300 years ago, comes amid an ongoing dispute over who owns the treasure. The announcement of the recovery operation follows years of legal wrangling and negotiations involving Colombia, Spain, and several private entities, each laying claim to the ship’s riches.

Colombia’s stance has been clear: the San Jose galleon is an integral part of its underwater cultural heritage, protected by UNESCO conventions to which the country is a signatory. The Colombian government asserts that the recovery of the San Jose’s treasures will be carried out with the utmost respect for archaeological and ethical standards, ensuring that the artifacts are preserved for educational and cultural purposes. 

Technological Marvels and Future Prospects

The use of robotic technology is essential in the recovery of the shipwreck. These unmanned vehicles are capable of delicately navigating the challenging depths where the San Jose galleon rests, minimizing the risk of damage to the shipwreck and its surroundings.

The San Jose galleon’s recovery mission is a complex undertaking that involves not only technical and logistical challenges but also questions of cultural heritage, international law, and ethical stewardship. As this piece of submerged history surfaces, the treasures of San Jose will shed more light on the historical narratives of the colonial era and the transatlantic exchanges that shaped the modern world.

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