Plan to recover “holy grail” of shipwrecks holding billions of dollars in treasure off the coast of Colombia is approved

Colombia has officially approved a plan to recover the legendary San Jose galleon, which sank off the coast of Colombia more than three centuries ago, carrying a wealth of gold, silver, and emeralds. This shipwreck, dubbed the “holy grail” of shipwrecks, is estimated to be worth billions of dollars and has sparked controversy since its discovery in 2015 due to its archaeological and economic significance.

The Colombian government will invest over $1 million in the recovery process, set to begin next month. An underwater robot will be deployed to extract items from the wreck’s surface, including ceramics, wood pieces, and shells, without causing damage. The expedition’s location is being kept secret to safeguard the site from unauthorized treasure hunters.

The San Jose galleon, owned by the Spanish crown, was sunk by the British navy in 1708 near Cartagena while returning from the New World to King Philip V of Spain. Only a few crew members survived, and the ship’s cargo included chests of emeralds and around 200 tons of gold coins. The discovery of the wreck in 2015 ended a long search by treasure hunters.

The recovery effort comes amid a legal dispute between Colombia and the U.S.-based salvage company Sea Search Armada, which claims to have found the wreck over 40 years ago. In June 2022, a remotely operated vehicle captured new images of the wreckage, revealing gold ingots, coins, cannons, and an intact Chinese dinner service. Additionally, two other shipwrecks were discovered in the area, including a schooner dating back about two centuries.

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