colombia treasure spanish galleon sunk 1708

colombia treasure spanish galleon sunk 1708


Colombia has officially announced that it will begin, in April, the extraction of the treasure still kept in the seabed of the legendary Spanish galleon “San José”, sunk in 1708 by the English fleet near the Rosario Islands, off the coast of Cartagena des Indiasm in the North -west of the Latin American country.

The value of the treasure of gold, stones (particularly emeralds) and precious objects, contained in the wreck of one of the largest vessels of the time, is estimated to be in the order of billions of euros. In the midst of the War of Succession to the Iberian Throne (1701-1712), the ship was transporting its cargo of precious metals and minerals extracted in the colonies to the court of King Philip V, when, on the night of 7 June 1708, she was sunk by the British . Only very few of the crew members survived.

Seven years after the discovery of the wreck, the government of Bogota announced its intention to begin recovering the ceramic objects visible around the remains of the galleon, starting with the numerous pieces of ceramic, “without modifying or damaging the wreck”, as explained the Colombian Minister of Culture, Juan David Correa. The idea is to begin “to see how these bodies react, once they are resurfaced and taken out of the water, and then behave accordingly, explained the minister, who is currently on the Caribe navy ship , which will be the basis of the operation.

It is not yet clear whether at this stage valuable objects and stones will already have been extracted. The works, whose cost is expected to exceed 4 billion euros, will be carried out with the indispensable contribution of a robot capable of operating at a pressure of 60 atmospheres, as much as is found at 600 meters deep, at the point where it is the wreck is placed: an instrument purchased by the government of Bogota in 2021, and which can support depths of up to 1,500 meters. It goes without saying that the point where the remains of the San José are located is kept very secret, to protect it from pirates and treasure hunters, given that – according to historical sources – it is one of the greatest treasures and in general one of the greatest archaeological finds ever. The only “trace”, up to this moment, are the photos of the seabed published here, disclosed by the Colombian navy in 2022, at the end of four observation and study campaigns: you can see cast iron cannons, pieces of porcelain crockery, pottery, pieces apparently of gold and a part of the bow, covered in algae and shells.

Found in 2015 by Colombian naval forces, the San José has inevitably become the subject of international contention. Spain has claimed ownership, on the basis of a UNESCO convention; a group of Colombian natives in turn recalled that the treasures contained in the wreck had been taken from the lands of their ancestors.

The government of President Gustavo Petro, in power in Colombia since 2022, wants to use the country’s sole resources to recover the wreck and ensure its precious cargo remains in the country. But Spain’s ambassador to Colombia, Joaquin de Aristegui, said Thursday that he had received instructions to propose to Colombia a “bilateral agreement” on the protection of the wreck, but provided no further details. Since Thursday he has been participating with representatives of the Bolivian indigenous people and experts in a symposium on future mining operations. Minister Correa, for his part, assured that the indigenous peoples of Bolivia said they were “ready to collaborate” with the Colombian government in this matter. The idea is “to stop considering it a treasure for which we have to fight as if we were in colonial times”, he underlined.

The announcement of the upcoming expedition, however, coincides with a new controversy, a dispute between the Colombian state and the American company Sea Search Armada, based in the United States, before the United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration. The company, which claims to have first discovered the ancient vessel more than 40 years ago, claims rights to half of the treasure, whose total value is estimated in these proceedings at $20 billion. According to what is believed, the wreck contained 11 million gold coins, as well as emeralds and other precious objects extracted and worked in the Spanish colonies.



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