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Colombian Navy confirms treasure discovered aboard sunken Spanish galleon

The lost galleon San Jose was a Spanish warship that sank off the coast of Cartagena in 1708. It is reportedly loaded up with billions of dollars full of gold.

The Colombian National Navy has located the sunken 'San Jose' Spanish galleon
The Colombian National Navy has located the sunken 'San Jose' Spanish galleon | Colombian National Navy (Armada Nacional)

June 16, 2022 8:36am

Updated: June 16, 2022 9:09am

The Colombian National Navy (Armada Nacional) has discovered two shipwrecks near the site of the lost galleon San Jose, a Spanish warship that sank off the coast of Cartagena in 1708—and one of them is reportedly loaded up with billions of dollars full of gold, the Maritime Executive reports.

Historical naval records report that on May 28, 1708, the Spanish Navy dispatched galleons San Jose, San Joaquin and Santa Cruz to sail from Portobelo to Cartagena. The ships sailed with 14 merchant vessels. 

The Maritime Executive reports the San Jose was carrying an estimated seven million gold pesos, but ran into trouble when it encountered four British Royal Navy warships on June 8.

The largest British warship, the Expedition fired upon the San Jose and  exploded after about 90 minutes of fighting sinking 600 feet to the ocean floor with her crew—and gold.

One of the other ships was captured and another sailed safely back to Cartagena's harbor. 

In 1981, a private explorer said he found the San Jose wreck, but the Colombian government denied his claim, and after a 30-year lawsuit a U.S. court ultimately decided the matter in state’s favor.

In 2015, the Colombian National Navy located the vessel’s underwater location, but the estimated $17 billion treasure has remained uncovered.

Last week, the Colombian government released never before seen underwater photos and videos of the San Jose wreck, which showed it is still intact.

The Maritime Executive reported that over the course of four Colombian naval expeditions, the survey team found two other wrecks including a schooner and colonial ship.

“Our government decided that all this treasure is a unified heritage, that it cannot be divided, that it cannot be separated, that it is a whole, of enormous patrimonial wealth," Colombian President Ivan Duque said of the matter.

The government has reported that the naval team discovered gold coins and ingots along with Chinese crockery, which will most likely be housed in a museum.

‘With the inscriptions discovered, it was possible to determine the manufacturing sites of the ship's cannons, in Seville and Cadiz, in the year 1655 . . . the coins of Eight Reales [pieces of eight] appear, with the coinage typical of the time,” said Colombian Admiral Jose Joaquin Amezquita. 

The admiral also revealed that the Colombian National Navy has determined there are 13 more wrecks located nearby, which will most likely be explored in the future.