Massive treasure hunt for 'Holy Grail' San Jose Galleon FINALLY begins 300 years after shipwreck

A ship

One of the ships inolved in the search

George Bunn

By George Bunn

Published: 28/05/2024

- 15:14

The ship was part of the fleet of King Philip V that fought the British during the War of the Spanish Succession

A treasure hunt on a the "Holy Grail" of shipwrecks has been launched after several delays.

The location of the San Jose Galleon was discovered by the Colombian navy in 2015, but its exact location has remained a state secret.

It is estimated that gold, silver and emerald treasures are on board the vessel that are thought to be worth as much as $17billion.

Now, the recovery project has finally been launched and is being undertaken by the Colombian government using a team of underwater robots.

\u200b The Colombian Navy ship ARC Caribe

The Colombian Navy ship ARC Caribe docked in the port of Cartagena


Colombia's Culture Minister Juan David Correa said the robots are being sent to extract items surrounding the shipwreck just off Cartagena to see "how they materialise when they come out" in the first stage of the recovery process.

It comes after members of three South American indigenous communities have asked Spain and UNESCO to declare a Spanish galleon that sank 300 years ago with a bountiful cargo as "common and shared heritage" from which they too should benefit.

The indigenous Killakas, Carangas and Chichas peoples estimate that their ancestors, often working in slave-like conditions, extracted the metals that make up around half of the ship's cargo from mines in what is now Bolivia, then under Spanish control, which were then transported north to Cartagena.

The request was filed by Lawyer Jose Maria Lancho, an expert in underwater heritage.


Juan David Correa

Colombian Minister of Culture, Juan David Correa


In letters sent to UNESCO and the Spanish government, a spokesperson for the communities said: "Our native communities consider any act of intervention and unilateral appropriation of the galleon, without consulting us directly and without expressly and effectively considering its common and shared character, to be an act of plunder and neo-colonialism."

A spokesperson from Spain's Ministry of Culture previously told GB News: "Spain's position has always been to maintain diplomatic lines of communication with Colombia, as well as to carry out an archaeological campaign together with this country and other international actors.

"Colombia and Spain are currently maintaining excellent relations and we understand that they must bring their interests closer together in this matter.

"Spain, as a signatory to UNESCO's 2001 Convention on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage, considers that under no circumstances should the commercialisation of the goods that make up the wreck be allowed, which is also an underwater tomb of naval officers that must be respected."

\u200bSome of the teacups found at the bottom of the sea

Some of the teacups found at the bottom of the sea from the San Jose Galleon


The recovery mission is set to be the biggest, most costly, and most complex recovery mission ever conducted underwater.

Experts leading the expedition said the primary objective of the mission isn't just to recover the items but to do it safely with them all staying intact.

The biggest fears are that due to the chemical differences the items may disintegrate when pulled out of the water.

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