Columbia says legendary treasure from a shipwreck of “inestimable value” will be recovered by an underwater robot

The Colombian government announced on Friday an expedition to remove pieces of “inestimable value” from the legendary shipwreck. San Jose GalleonWhich sank in 1708, loaded with gold, silver, and emeralds worth billions of dollars. The 316-year-old wreck, often called The “Holy Grail” of shipwrecksIt was controversial, because it is an archaeological and economic treasure at the same time.

Culture Minister Juan David Correa told AFP that more than eight years have passed since the revolution Debris discovery Off the coast of Colombia, an underwater robot will be sent to retrieve some of its bounty.

Between April and May, the robot will extract some items from the “deck of the sailing ship” to see “how they materialize when they come out (of the water) and to understand what we can do” to recover the rest of the treasures. Correa said.

The operation will cost more than $4.5 million and the robot will work at a depth of 600 meters to remove objects such as ceramics, pieces of wood and shells “without modifying or damaging the debris,” Correa told AFP aboard a large naval ship.

The mission location is kept secret to protect what is perceived One of the greatest archaeological discoveries In the history of malicious treasure hunters.

The San José Galleon was owned by the Spanish Crown when it was sunk by the British Navy near Cartagena in 1708. Only a few of its 600 crew members survived.

The Spanish ship San Jose Galleon sank in the Caribbean in 1708 after a battle with the British.

Samuel Scott


“It makes it very sensitive because one is not supposed to interfere with war graves,” said Justin Leidwanger, an archaeologist at Stanford University who studies ancient shipwrecks. He told Live Science.

The ship was returning from the New World to the court of King Philip V of Spain, loaded with treasures such as emerald chests and about 200 tons of gold coins.

Before Colombia He announced his discovery in 2015Which treasure hunters have sought for a long time.

“It is as if we are in the era of colonialism.”

The discovery of the galleon sparked controversy over who would receive the ship's reward.

Spain insists the bounty belongs to it because it was on a Spanish ship, while Bolivia's Guara State says it should get the treasures because the Spanish forced community members to extract precious metals.

Colombian Admiral Herman Ricardo León (left) and Colombian Director of the Institute of Anthropology and History Alena Caicedo hold a press conference at the Naval Museum in Cartagena, Colombia, on February 23, 2024.

Luis Acosta/AFP via Getty Images


The government of leftist President Gustavo Petro, who has been in power since 2022, wants to use the country's own resources to recover the wreck and ensure it remains in Colombia.

Culture Minister Correa said the idea is to “stop believing that we are dealing with a treasure that we have to fight for as if we were in colonial times, with the pirates who disputed these lands.”

Spain's ambassador to Colombia, Joaquín de Aristegui, said he had instructions to offer Colombia a “bilateral agreement” on protecting the wreck.

Bolivia's indigenous people have expressed their willingness to work with Petro's government and are now demanding the return of only some pieces of the ship.

“Not just for the symbolic cause, but for the spiritual cause,” indigenous leader Samuel Flores told AFP. “We just want our ancestors to live in peace.”

The campaign to begin recovering the shipwreck comes as a case is underway before the United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration between Colombia and US-based salvage company Sea Search Armada – which claims to have found the wreck for the first time in more than 40 years.

The company is demanding $10 billion, half the estimated value of the wreck today.

In June 2022, Colombia said a remotely operated vehicle reached a depth of 900 meters below the ocean surface, showing New photos of the wreck.

The video showed the best view yet of the treasure aboard the San Jose, including gold bars, coins, cannons made in Seville in 1655 and an intact Chinese dinner service.


Gold coins found in centuries-old shipwrecks off Colombia

At the time, Reuters reported that the remotely operated vehicle had also discovered two other shipwrecks in the area, including a sailboat believed to be nearly two centuries old.

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