Colombia Treasure Ship Found: Spanish Galleon San Jose Off Cartagena May Be Biggest In ‘History Of Mankind’

A sunken Spanish galleon that has sat at the bottom of the Caribbean Sea for over 300 years has been found by the Colombian government, according to reports from the BBC. The San Jose ship was sunk in 1708 by British warships in a naval confrontation known as Wagner’s Action, under the command of English Commodore Charles Wager, as reported by the Inquisitr.

It is thought that the San Jose may have been carrying cargo including gold, silver, and gemstones valued at more than $1 billion today. The legendary Spanish galleon is said to have been carrying “one of the largest” amounts of treasure ever lost at sea, leading to the San Jose becoming known as the “holy grail” of shipwrecks.

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Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos stated that the Colombian find of the sunken Spanish galleon “constitutes one of the greatest – if not the biggest, as some say – discoveries of submerged patrimony in the history of mankind.”

Spanish galleon San Jose found in Caribbean. A golden artifact recovered by treasure hunters in Florida, on display in 2008. [Carol Tedesco/Florida Keys News Bureau via Getty Images]The Government of Colombia has not revealed the precise location of the wreck. A U.S. salvage company, Sea Search Armada, claimed to have found the general area where the Colombian treasure ship was located in 1981, according to the Guardian. In 2001, a U.S. court declared that the wreck of the San Jose belonged entirely to the state of Colombia.

The San Jose is said to be located somewhere near the Colombian Caribbean port city of Cartagena in water approximately 1,000 feet deep.

The San Jose, along with the two other warships, the San Joaquin, the Santa Cruz, and 14 merchant vessels were sailing from Portobelo to Cartagena in the Spring of 1708, according to the Old Salt Blog. The San Jose was said to be the biggest of the three and to carry the most treasure: estimates peg the amount at between 7 and 11 million pesos.

The Spanish fleet met with a fleet of British warships under the command of Charles Wagner: the Expedition, the Kingston, the Portland, and the Vulture. Of the three Spanish ships, the Santa Cruz was taken and the San Joaquin escaped, but the San Jose did not survive the battle. Most on board, 589 of 600, were said to have been killed in an explosion before the Spanish galleon quickly sunk to the bottom of the Caribbean.

San Jose, sunken Spanish galleon found off Colombian coast. The Nuestra Senora del Rosario after being captured by the HMS Revenge in 1588. [Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images]Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos stated that the government of the South American nation intends to open a museum in Cartagena to display artifacts from the San Jose. During 300 years of Spanish colonial rule, more than 1,000 merchant ships and galleons were thought to have been sunk off the Colombian coast in the Caribbean Sea.

Sunken treasure ship may hold more than $1 billion. The San Jose may hold more than $1 billion in gold, silver, and gems. [Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images]The wreck of the sunken Spanish galleon, the San Jose, is said to be considered a United Nations Underwater Cultural Heritage site. Prior to the 2011 court decision that awarded ownership of the sunken treasure ship to the Colombian government, few of the many shipwrecks along the country’s Caribbean coast had been explored, reportedly stymied by the litigation. The San Jose find, and the announcement by the Colombian government may be the start of a new wave of exploration in the nation’s treasure-laden waters.

Spanish galleon San Jose man hold over $1 billion in treasure. A replica of a 16th century Spanish Galleon, El Galeon, in Miami, Florida in 2013. [Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images]Also, before 2011, Sea Search Armada and the Colombian government had an agreement where the company would have received a finder’s fee on any treasure that was recovered. Originally, the Colombian government and the company agreed to split the proceeds of any treasure in a 65 / 35 percent split. Then, a Colombian court, the Circuit Court of Baranquilla, declared that the Sea Search Armada and the Colombian government each owned 50 percent of the sunken San Jose treasure ship.

In the end it didn’t matter, because the Government of Colombia decided to ignore their court’s ruling and a U.S. court backed them up. The Colombian government will be the sole benefactor of the proceeds of any treasure recovered from the shipwreck of the San Jose.

[AP Photo/Pedro Mendoza]