Nearshore Americas

Colombian Government Hunts for Sunken Spanish Gold

The Colombian government is undertaking an unexpected line of work: treasure hunting.

Colombian authorities officially launched the search for a treasure believed to be buried somewhere in the depths of the Caribbean Sea since the early 1700s.

The treasure is supossedly found within a sunken Spanish galleon named San José, which fell in battle with a ship from the British navy in 1708. The San José reportedly carried 11 million gold and silver coins.

The sunken galleon was found back by in 2015 Colombian authorities, close to the Rosario Islands, near the city of Cartagena, 600 meters underwater. No treasure was retrieved then, but images captured by te Colombian navy showed cannons, coins and Chinese tableware.

Former president Juan Manuel Santos described the discovery then as “one of the largest finds of submerged heritage.” In 2020, the galleon was declared an asset of cultural interest in Colombia, emphasizing that its value should not be assessed in monetary terms.

Analysts estimate the treasure’s value at approximately US$20 billion. Currently, Colombian authorities are considering placing the treasure in a museum.

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Colombia’s navy has deployed a robot to explore the wreck, operated from the ARC Caribe, a ship purchased by the Colombian state from a Chinese shipyard in 2017 for US$13 million.

According to a British newspapers, the Royal Navy intended to capture the Spanish ship and its enormous riches to prevent them from funding Spain’s war of succession against Britain. However, the ship’s powder magazines detonated during battle, sinking the vessel and claiming nearly all 600 lives on board.

Narayan Ammachchi

News Editor for Nearshore Americas, Narayan Ammachchi is a career journalist with a decade of experience in politics and international business. He works out of his base in the Indian Silicon City of Bangalore.

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