The Colombian Army has shared unprecedented images of the iconic San Jose Galleon shipwreck, which has been hidden underwater for three centuries and is believed to have had billions of dollars worth of riches on board.
Four observation missions using a remote-controlled vehicle were sent to the wreckage at a depth of nearly 950 meters (3,100 feet) off Colombia’s Caribbean coast, the army said in a statement late Monday.
These missions, conducted by the Navy under the supervision of the Ministry of Culture, found the galleon untouched by “human interference”.
Cannons partially covered with mud can be seen alongside porcelain dishes, pottery, glass bottles and also pieces of gold.
Part of the bow is clearly covered with algae and shellfish, as is the remains of the bulkhead.
Authorities said they also uncovered two other shipwrecks during their observation mission — a colonial-era galleon and a post-colonial-era schooner.
“Thanks to the technological equipment and the work of the Colombian Navy, we have been able to capture images with unprecedented precision,” said President Ivan Duque.
He said the wreck was “kept intact and protected for future salvage”.
In this case, however, Colombia is challenged by Spain and an indigenous group in Bolivia to see who keeps the bounty.
– lost for 300 years –
The galleon San Jose was owned by the Spanish Crown when it was sunk by the British Navy near Cartagena in 1708.
Only a handful of its 600-strong crew survived.
It was on its way back from the New World to the court of King Philip V of Spain.
At the time it was laden with treasure valued at billions of dollars at current rates.
Before its discovery in 2015, it had long been sought after by treasure hunters.
Experts believe it contains at least 200 tons of gold, silver and emeralds.
Colombia considers wrecks found in its territorial waters as part of its cultural heritage, which means the contents cannot be sold.
Spain insists the bounty is theirs as it was aboard a Spanish ship, while Bolivia’s Qhara Qhara nation says it should get the treasures as the Spanish forced the community’s population to mine the precious metals.
When the wreck was discovered, then-Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos hailed it as “the most valuable treasure ever found in world history.”
He had proposed funding the salvage mission with proceeds from the sale of part of the find, but Duque stopped this to ensure the entire wreckage remained in Colombia.
Colombian authorities have announced their intention to create a shipwreck museum that would be “a source of pride for Colombia, the Caribbean and the world.”
The salvage of the wreck poses a technological and scientific challenge due to its depth.
Authorities have identified another 13 sites off the coast of Cartagena that they plan to explore in search of other shipwrecks.
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