Colombia Shares New Pics of 'Holy Grail' Shipwreck

The navy also revealed the discovery of other shipwrecks in the vicinity
By Mike L. Ford,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 8, 2022 8:41 AM CDT

(Newser) – The wreck of the San José galleon was discovered in 2015 off the coast of Cartagena, and it’s known as the “Holy Grail” of shipwrecks because of the enormous treasure it was carrying when it went down in 1708. This week, Colombian President Iván Duque announced that his country’s navy discovered two additional wrecks in the same vicinity, per the BBC, including a “colonial boat” from the period of the San José and a schooner from the time of Colombia’s war for independence in the early 1800s. Colombian Admiral Gabriel Pérez says the new discoveries highlight “other options for archaeological exploration” and “the work is just beginning.”

The two new wrecks may be of interest to historians, but the San José remains the primary object of international intrigue, and newly released images of its contents are bound to renew interest. The treasure is said to be worth upwards of $20 billion, and it has already been bathed in controversy for decades. Spain has laid claim, saying it’s a “ship of state” and protected by UN regulations, but Colombia says the wreck is in its territorial waters and part of its cultural heritage, per France24, which also notes that Bolivia’s indigenous Quara Quara community wants a piece because its people were originally forced to mine the gold.

The San José's exact location is classified, but the Colombian navy has been monitoring it, and the government announced intentions to excavate despite international objections. Per Heritage Daily, the San José was a 64-gun, three-masted flagship of the Spanish treasure fleet. In 1708, it was attacked by British warships in a battle known as Wager's Action, during which its powder magazine exploded. It sank to a depth of more than 3,000 feet, along with all but a few of its 600-man crew, plus a heap of gold, silver, emeralds, and jewelry. Newly released footage also shows cannons, crockery, and an amazingly well-intact Chinese dinner service with scores of delicate teacups. (Read more shipwrecks stories.)

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