(Photo by David Cordingly of "Action off Cartagena, May 28, 1708" by the painter Samuel Scott)
In 1708, during the War of Spanish Succession, the Royal Navy attempted to degrade Spain's ability to wage wars by capturing or sinking the treasure fleets that brought gold, silver, and jewels to Spain from her colonies in the Americas. Admiral Sir Charles Wager led a squadron which attacked one such fleet off the coast of Colombia. During the battle, the Spanish galleon San Jose exploded and sank quickly. All of that precious treasure sank to the bottom of the sea, never to be found.
Maritime treasure hunters have referred to the San Jose as the "holy grail" of lost ships. That's with good reason. The President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, recently announced that divers have found the San Jose. It has so much treasure on board that the value may reach $1 billion (USD). The Guardian reports:
Sonar images have revealed bronze cannon made specifically for the ship, arms, ceramics and other artefacts, said the president. The 150ft long ship with a beam of 45ft was armed with 64 guns. Some 600 people went down with the vessel after it exploded when hit by fire from a British warship. The wreck falls within the UN’s definition of an underwater cultural heritage site. Archaeological excavation and scientific tests will continue to ensure it can be properly preserved, said the president.
The American salvage company which discovered the San Jose will keep half of the treasure and the Colombian government the other half, as it lies within Colombian waters.
-via Marilyn Terrell