Diving into the wreckage of the sailing ship "San Jose"/Armada de Colombia
The Colombian government has launched a project to rescue a 300-year-old shipwreck estimated to hold $20 billion in treasure. Colombian President Gustavo Petro has ordered his government to remove the "holy grail of shipwrecks" — the Spanish ship San Jose — from the bottom of the Caribbean Sea as soon as possible, the country's culture minister told Bloomberg last week.
Petro wants to bring to the surface the wreckage of the 3-masted and 62-gun ship before his term ends in 2026 and has sought to form a public-private partnership to make the project happen, Culture Minister Juan David Correa said earlier this month. "This is one of the Petro administration's top priorities," he said.
But the mystery surrounds the ownership of the vast reservoir of gold, silver and emeralds, estimated to be worth between $4 billion and $20 billion, according to a lawsuit. It seems that the essence of the issue of ownership of the treasury revolves around the question of who found it?
The galleon ship San Jose sank in battle against British ships on 8 June 1708/Screenshot, Samuel Scott
San Jose was a galleon ship (a type of large multi-deck armed sailing ship) that sailed with 600 crew on board and sank to a depth of 600 meters on 8 June 1708, during a battle against the British in the War of the Spanish Succession. Built in 1698 by Duke Aristides Aslava, the vessel was the flagship of Spain's treasury fleet. During the war, San José traveled between Peru and Spain carrying gems and precious metals.
Accounts vary as to exactly what happened to her on her last voyage in 1708, but it is believed that the San Jose left Panama for Cartagena, along with two other galleons and 14 trading ships. The ship was loaded with gold, silver and emerald bars mined in Bolivia that were essential for the financial management of the Spanish war against the British.
After an overnight anchorage on Barrow Island, off the coast of Cartagena, the fleet encountered four British warships and engaged in a fierce gunfight that lasted until twilight. One of the three galleons, San Joaquín, managed to escape the battle under cover of darkness and escape unharmed. The Navy's second galleon, Santa Cruz, was later captured by the British Navy, but there were few valuables on board. San Jose suffered catastrophic damage when its arsenal exploded after being hit by British fire. She quickly sank below sea level, killing all but 600 of her crew members.
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The wreckage was found and documented about 600 meters underwater in 2015/official website, Presidencia de la República - Colombia
The wreckage is known as the "Holy Grail of Shipwrecks" because of the enormous treasure found on the ship/official website, Presidencia de la República - Colombia
The exact location where she sank was unknown for many years - and then in 1981, the American company Glocca Morra claimed to have discovered the ship with the lost treasure and passed the coordinates to the Colombian government, promising to receive half the fortune when they managed to pull the ship out of the water. Years later, in 2015, Colombia's then-president, Juan Manuel Santos, said the country's navy had found the San Jose wreckage in another location on the seabed.
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Colombia has never released the coordinates of the ship's final resting place, but Gluca Mora — now called Sea Search Armada — believes the country found part of the same debris field in 2015 that was first discovered by them 34 years earlier.
The company is suing the Colombian government for half of the treasury, or an estimated $10 billion, as part of the U.S.-Columbia trade promotion agreement, according to Bloomberg. David Correa told the network that government investigators visited the coordinates shared by Sea Search Armada and "concluded that there was no shipwreck there."
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