27 Feb, 2024 @ 07:00
1 min read

Competing claims by Colombia, Spain and Bolivia over sunken galleon’s €20 billion booty dubbed ‘the Holy Grail of shipwrecks’ threaten plans for robotic expedition

Spain lays claim to 'Holy Grail of shipwrecks': Galleon which sank more than 300 years ago contains up to €18bn in treasure
Spain lays claim to 'Holy Grail of shipwrecks': Galleon which sank more than 300 years ago contains up to €18bn in treasure

A SPANISH treasure galleon sunk off the Colombian coast has sparked a tug-of-war over the estimated €20 billion booty at the bottom of the sea.

Historical records suggest the San Jose galleon, sunk in 1708 by a British naval squadron, was carrying a vast fortune of emeralds, gold and silver coins accumulated from Spanish colonies in South America.

The Colombian government of Gustavo Petro has announced plans to launch an expedition to investigate the wreck, nicknamed the ‘holy grail of shipwrecks.’

Spain lays claim to 'Holy Grail of shipwrecks': Galleon which sank more than 300 years ago contains up to €18bn in treasure
Spain lays claim to ‘Holy Grail of shipwrecks’: Galleon which sank more than 300 years ago contains up to €20bn in treasure

Colombia announced that it is investing over €4 million in 2024 alone to explore the galleon and its hidden riches.

New technology will be used to explore the 600-metre-deep waters surrounding the wreck. 

Initial efforts will involve submerged robots attempting to recover some surface-level treasures in April and May.

However, Petro faces competing claims from both Spain, who argue treasure belongs to them as the ship was flying their flag when it sank, and also Bolivia.

The Bolivian government claims treasures were mined by the indigenous people of the Qhara Qhara nation under Spanish colonial rule, making them the rightful owners.

Peru and Panama are also asserting ownership, as they claim the goods were originally stolen from their lands.

The San Jose was destroyed and its 500-strong crew all killed after its gunpowder magazines detonated during a fierce battle with the British near Baru Island off the coast of Cartagena, according to historians.

But its precise location is being kept a secret by the Colombian government, ostensibly to deter amateur treasure hunters.

It is believed to have been carrying 200 tonnes of silver and emeralds, along with an estimated eleven million gold coins, which officially belonged to the viceroy of Peru.

So far, oceanographers have used sea depth analysis and soil studies of the ocean bed to understand the best ways to extract the galleon’s contents.

The findings will help assess the condition of other treasures located deeper within the wreckage and guide future recovery efforts.

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Walter Finch

Walter - or Walt to most people - is a former and sometimes still photographer and filmmaker who likes to dig under the surface.
A NCTJ-trained journalist, he came to the Costa del Sol - Gibraltar hotspot from the Daily Mail in 2022 to report on organised crime, corruption, financial fraud and a little bit of whatever is going on.
Got a story? [email protected]
@waltfinc

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