CARTAGENA, Colombia: Colombia said it has found the shipwreck of a storied Spanish galleon laden with gold, silver and precious stones, three centuries after it was sunk by the British in the Caribbean.
“This is the most valuable treasure that has been found in the history of humanity,” President Juan Manuel Santos declared on Saturday (Sunday in Manila).
He was speaking from the northern port city of Cartagena, close to where experts made the hugely valuable find.
Treasure hunters had searched for the ship for decades, described by some as the holy grail of shipwrecks.
The loot is estimated to be worth around $2 billion, its value having dropped significantly because of the falling price of silver, according to US-based company Sea Search Armada (SSA).
SSA, whose subsidiary claimed in the early 1980s that it had found the galleon’s final resting place, was engaged in a long-running battle with the government of Colombia.
The find was not confirmed and a US court ultimately ruled it was Colombian property.
The San Jose has long been the source of fascination and popular legends, and even figures in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “Love in the Time of Cholera.”
Although they found plenty of other wrecks, the San Jose’s location had remained a mystery until now.
The San Jose was sunk in June 1708 near the Islas del Rosario, off Colombia’s Caribbean coast, during combat with British ships attempting to take its cargo, as part of the War of Spanish Succession.
The galleon was the main ship in a treasure fleet carrying gold, silver and other valuable items from Spain’s American colonies to King Philip V.