When the ship sank 300 years ago, it was full of gold, silver coins and precious stones. Now it can be retrieved from the bottom of the Caribbean Sea

When the ship sank 300 years ago, it was full of gold, silver coins and precious stones. Now it can be retrieved from the bottom of the Caribbean Sea
When the ship sank 300 years ago, it was full of gold, silver coins and precious stones. Now it can be retrieved from the bottom of the Caribbean Sea

It was during the Battle of Barú, also known as Wager’s attack, that the Spanish ship San José sank to the bottom off the coast of Colombia.

The ship was unable to withstand the forces of the British fleet. The attack came on 8 June 1708 and caused the gunpowder magazine on the ship to detonate. It all happened during the War of the Spanish Succession with Spain and France on one side and England, the Romans and the Dutch Republic on the other.

San José was filled with gold, silver and emeralds from the mines of Potosí in Bolivia. It had 62 guns, three masts and 600 men on board when it was attacked by the British and sank to the bottom.

Only eleven of the 600 men on board survived.

Until now, both the treasures and the men have been hidden at a depth of 600 meters for over three hundred years.

Soon everything will see the light of day.

NOK 180 billion

According to estimates from researchers and historians, the ship’s total value is 17 billion dollars, which is equivalent to 180 billion kroner today.

No one knew where this extremely valuable shipwreck lay, and many have searched for it over the years. It was only in 2015 that the technology was finally good enough to reveal the exact location of the wreckage.

The news spread all over the world, including in Norway.

The researchers found the wreck with the help of an unmanned submarine. This is the same type of technology that has been used in the search for Air France Flight 447 that crashed off the coast of Brazil in 2009 and that has been used to take pictures of the Titanic in 2010.

The valuable cargo consists of, among other things, gold and silver coins, and the ship is called the saint from shipwrecks. Colombia’s government announced earlier this year an expedition to retrieve items of what it calls “incalculable value” from San Jose. The image is a screenshot from a video taken by the robot submarine.
(Photo: Colombian Presidency / AFP / NTB)

Who will get the tax?

Scientists want to retrieve artifacts from the ship as quickly as possible. They expect to start as early as April this year, according to The Guardian newspaper.

But who will actually get the highly valuable treasures when the ship finally surfaces?

Does the American exploration company have the technology needed to raise the ship? Or the nation of Colombia that is closest to the area where the ship is located?

And what about the Spanish? After all, they were the ones who owned the treasures when the ship went down.

In addition, descendants of the indigenous people of Bolivia and African slaves from New Granada have signed up. It was they who were forced to extract the precious metals back in 1708, and who then had to give them up to the colonial masters in Spain.


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Want to know more about the story and the crew

All this is still uncertain. Now, eight years after the wreck was first found, the researchers are concerned with other things than who will get the treasure.

– There has been a persistent view of the ship as a treasure trove. We want to turn this around now, says Alhena Caicedo, director of the Department of Anthropology and History in Colombia to The Guardian.

– We don’t think about taxes. Rather, we are thinking about how we can gain access to the historical and archaeological information, he says.

He believes the wreck can reveal a lot about the time when the Spanish Empire was at its strongest.

A specially made museum

The researchers hope that they can raise the ship and display it in a specially made museum where visitors can explore for themselves all the secrets the ship has to offer.

Because what was life really like for the 600 people on board the San José at the time it sank?

The ship also includes objects of glass, porcelain and leather which may tell more about life in the 18th century.

Historians also hope that the cargo can tell something about trade in the 18th century and Spain’s complex empire.

Watch video of the shipwreck and the objects found in it.

The article is in Norwegian

Tags: ship sank years full gold silver coins precious stones retrieved bottom Caribbean Sea


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