The Sunken Treasure of San Jose

On 5 December 2015, Mr. Juan Manuel Santos, the president of Colombia made an announcement that a 300-year-old Spanish shipwreck which worth around $4 billion and $17 billion had been discovered off the Colombian coast. It has been described as the holy grail of shipwrecks, as the ship was carrying one of the largest amounts of valuables ever to have been lost at sea. At a news conference in this colonial port city, Santos said the exact location of the galleon San Jose, and how it was discovered with the help of an international team of experts, was a state secret that he'd personally safeguard. The ship sank somewhere in the wide area off Colombia's Baru peninsula, south of Cartagena.

In 1708, Europe was at war. The prior king of Spain, Charles II, was notoriously inbred and died without heirs. He named his grand-nephew Philip, Duke of Anjou, his successor. The problem was that Philip was the grandson of French King Louis XIV. Thus, crowning Philip as king of Spain would unite Spain and France -- a possibility that frightened the rest of Europe. War erupted to prevent this eventuality. And because of European colonialism, this war had a long reach. The San José, far across the Atlantic, was carrying cargo gold, silver, gems and jewellery collected in the South American colonies meant to fund the French and Spanish war effort. Unfortunately, the vessel was attacked by a British warship just outside Cartagena. 

It is believed to have been carrying 11 million gold coins and jewels from then Spanish-controlled colonies that could be worth billions of dollars if ever recovered.

Ownership of the wreck has been the subject of a long-running legal row.

The Colombian government did not mention its long-running quarrel with US-based salvage company Sea Search Armada (SSA) over claims to the treasure.

A group now owned by SSA said in 1981 that it had located the area in which the ship sank.

SSA has been claiming billions of dollars for breach of contract from the Colombian government, but in 2011 an American court ruled that the galleon was the property of the Colombian state.


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