Colombia says it has found the shipwreck of a storied Spanish galleon that was sunk three centuries ago by the British in the Caribbean.
“This is the most valuable treasure that has been found in the history of humanity,” declared President Juan Manuel Santos on Saturday, speaking from the northern port city of Cartagena, close to where experts discovered the sunken treasure.
Treasure hunters spent decades attempting to find the ship, which led to the discovery of other sunken treasures.
The San Jose attacked in June 1708 near the Islas del Rosario, off Colombia’s Caribbean coast. British ships were attempting to take its cargo as part of the War of Spanish Succession.
The galleon on the main ship included gold, silver, and other valuable items from Spain’s American colonies to King Philip V.
To find the ship a group of Colombian and foreign researchers were brought in to consult. The group included veterans from the team who discovered the Titanic wreck in 1985. Participants examined winds and currents of the Caribbean 307 years ago, examining colonial archives to aid in their search.
Experts say they discovered the San Jose on November 27 “in a place never before referenced by previous research.”
They recognized the ship because it was carrying unique bronze cannons with engraved dolphins.
“The amount and type of the material leave no doubt of the identity” of the shipwreck, said Ernesto Montenegro, head of the Colombian Institute of Anthropology and History.
It is believed that upwards of 1,000 shipwrecks could line the floor of the Caribbean coast of Colombia. Only between six and 10 sunken ships had large treasure cargos.