Discovered in Colombia: ‘The most valuable treasure in human history’

December 6, 2015 3:38 pm

 Depiction of a Spanish galleon taken by the Pirate Pierre le Grand near the coast of Hispaniola, in 1643. Picture / Getty

says it has found the shipwreck of a Spanish galleon laden
with gold and precious stones, three centuries after it was sunk by the
British in the Caribbean.
“This is the most valuable treasure
that has been found in the history of humanity,” declared President Juan
Manuel Santos, speaking from the port city of Cartagena, close to where
experts made the find.
It could reveal one of the great lost treasure chests, with valuables worth as much as US$17 billion.

Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos talks to the media during a press conference in Cartagena, Colombia. Photo / AP
Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos talks to the media during a press conference in Cartagena, Colombia. Photo / AP
Treasure hunters had searched for the ship for decades, and
although they found plenty of other wrecks, the San Jose’s final
resting place had remained a mystery.
The San Jose was sunk in
June 1708 off Colombia’s Caribbean coast, during combat with British
ships in the War of the Spanish Succession.

The galleon was the main ship in a treasure fleet carrying
gold, silver and other valuable items to Spain from its American
Only a handful of the ship’s crew of 600 survived when the San Jose sank.
team of Colombian and foreign researchers studied winds and currents of
the Caribbean 307 years ago and delved into archives in Spain and
Colombia searching for clues.
Experts confirmed that they found the San Jose on November 27, Santos said.
The experts confirmed that they located the San Jose because the ship was carrying unique bronze cannons with engraved dolphins.
amount and type of the material leave no doubt of the identity” of the
shipwreck, said Ernesto Montenegro, head of the Colombian Institute of
Anthropology and History.
A US company, the Sea Search Armada,
claimed to have earlier found the wreck, but the find was not confirmed
and a legal dispute broke out with the government over ownership rights
that was ultimately resolved in a US court in Colombia’s favour.
could be up to 1000 shipwrecks off the Caribbean coast of Colombia, but
of those only between six and 10 had large treasure cargoes,
anthropologist Fabian Sanabria said.
When the San Jose set sail
from South America in 1708 she was carrying riches destined for King
Philip V’s war chest as he fought Britain in the War of Succession.
never arrived. She was sunk after a 90-minute battle with HMS
Expedition, part of a four-ship squadron hunting the Spanish treasure
fleet in the southern Caribbean.
Commodore Charles Wager
described the close quarters broadsides – and said the San Jose exploded
with such intensity he could feel the heat from his own ship.
believe the ship’s side blew out, for she caused a sea that came in our
ports,” he wrote. “She immediately sank with all her riches.”
reports said she was carrying 116 chests of emeralds, two tons of
platinum and the personal wealth of the Viceroy of Peru – making her the
richest treasure ship ever lost in the western hemisphere.
The San Jose is estimated to be one of more than 1000 galleons and merchant vessels to have sunk among Colombia’s coral reefs.
this year, treasure hunters said they had found US$4.5 million of
Spanish gold coins off the coast of Florida, part of another of King
Philip’s treasure fleets shipwrecked in a hurricane while en route from
Havana to Spain.

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