A shipswreck laden with gold, silver and precious stones, has been found in the Caribbean Sea, off the coast of Columbia, three centuries after it was sunk by the British.
“This is the most valuable treasure that has been found in the history of humanity,” said President Juan Manuel Santos on Saturday. “I am very pleased, as head of state, to inform you that, without a doubt, we have found, 307 years after its sinking, the galleon San Jose.”
He was speaking from the northern port city of Cartagena, located on the country’s north coast, close to where experts made the hugely valuable find.
Described as the holy grail of shipwrecks, treasure hunters had searched for the San Jose, for decades.
The value of the San Jose’s treasure, believed to include gold, silver, emeralds, and other precious cargo — has been estimated at more than US$10 billion, with a range of US$4-$17 billion often invoked. Much of the bullion came from mines in what is now Peru.
However, according to a US based company, Sea Search Armada, the value of the loot has dropped significantly due to the falling price of silver, according to US-based Company Sea Search Armada.
The company, whose subsidiary claimed in the early 1980s that it had found the galleon’s final resting place, was engaged in a long-running battle with the government of Colombia.
The find was not confirmed and a US court ultimately ruled it was Colombian property.
The San Jose was sunk in June 1708 near the Islas del Rosario, off Colombia’s Caribbean coast, during combat with British ships attempting to take its cargo, as part of the War of Spanish Succession.
The galleon was the main ship in a treasure fleet carrying gold, silver and other valuable items from Spain’s American colonies to King Philip V.
Experts confirmed that they found the San Jose on November 27 “in a place never before referenced by previous research,” Santos said.
At least five other major shipwrecks were discovered when searching the ocean floor.
The experts confirmed that they located the San Jose, which was lying on its side, identifying it by its unique bronze cannons with engraved dolphins.
The discovery “is an unprecedented event for the country,” said Cartagena Mayor Dionisio Velez.