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Race for 200 tonnes of gold from wreck of Spanish galleon San Jose

Colombia intends to attempt to extract riches from the wreck of the Spanish galleon San Jose. However, it is not the only country claiming the treasure. Colombian authorities took another step on Thursday towards extracting legendary treasure from the Spanish wreck of the San Jose. Experts estimate the wreck’s cargo is at least 200 tonnes
Published: February 12, 2022 - 09:00
Updated: July 23, 2023 - 00:02
Race for 200 tonnes of gold from wreck of Spanish galleon San Jose

Colombia intends to attempt to extract riches from the wreck of the Spanish galleon San Jose. However, it is not the only country claiming the treasure.

Colombian authorities took another step on Thursday towards extracting legendary treasure from the Spanish wreck of the San Jose. Experts estimate the wreck’s cargo is at least 200 tonnes of gold, silver and emeralds.

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The case seems to be extremely difficult, as the Spanish and Bolivians also have a claim to the wealth that lies beneath the water. Both countries lay claim to the valuable cargo that went down at the beginning of the 18th century.

Fortune from San Jose

Disputes over the recovery of treasure from the wreck of the galleon San Jose, have been ongoing since Colombians discovered it on 27 November 2015. It should be noted that this was one of the largest wreck discoveries in history. Of course, it was all due to the incredible riches that the galleon was transporting to Spain. According to estimates that circulated the world after the discovery of the wreck, the value of what it took to the bottom is as much as $17 billion!

Not surprisingly, the wreck is the subject of a fierce battle over rights to the cargo. However, despite the passage of successive years, no excavation has begun. Instead, a legal battle has begun and is ongoing to determine the rightful owner and the terms on which the treasure will be taken.

Monuments from the wreck of the San Jose A spider’s web of links

When the British sank the galleon San Jose on 7 June 1708, Colombia was a Spanish colony. The gold looted throughout South America, especially in what is now Peru and Bolivia, was stored by the Spanish in Cartagena, a port city in the north of Colombia. From there it was shipped to Europe to be deposited in the treasury of the Kingdom of Spain.

The government in Colombia believes that the cargo from the wreck of the galleon San Jose is a national treasure. Therefore, in its opinion, all excavated objects should remain in the country. The Colombians want the whole thing to go to a museum they intend to build in Cartagena in the future.

Therefore, last Thursday, February 10, the President of Colombia issued a special decree on the matter. According to its provisions, companies or individuals interested in extracting cargo from the San Jose wreck will have to sign an agreement with the state and submit to the government a detailed inventory of their findings, as well as plans for dealing with the artifacts discovered.

The devil is in the detail

Finally, it is worth pointing out that the desire to excavate is one thing, but the possibility is a completely separate issue. The wreck of the galleon San Jose rests on the seabed, at a depth of more than 600 m. This makes the whole operation an extremely complex undertaking, which only a few entities around the world are capable of carrying out. None of the countries claiming the wreck and its cargo have the technology or the team of experts. Therefore, it will be necessary to involve external companies. At the moment, the Colombians have estimated the cost of the entire excavation operation at approximately USD 70 million. This is an enormous amount, but represents only a fraction of the treasure that awaits at the bottom.

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About author

Tomasz Andrukajtis
Editor-in-chief of the DIVERS24 portal and magazine. Responsible for obtaining, translating and developing content. He also supervises all publications. Achived his first diving certification – P1 CMAS, in 2000. Has a degree in journalism and social communication. In the diving industry since 2008.
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