Spain’s sunken treasures still there for the taking

In 2015, off the Columbian coast, the “Holy Grail of shipwrecks” was found, carrying loot that could be worth up to 10 billion dollars.

The Spanish galleon San Jose sank in 1708 during the War of Spanish Succession, taking a cargo of gold, silver, emeralds and jewellery from the country’s South American colonies to a watery grave.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos described it as “the most valuable treasure found in the history of humanity”.

Closer to home, a Roman anchor was retrieved off the Mallorcan coast last December, while divers from the Guardia Civil’s underwater team also found a pottery jar from 3BC, potentially worth millions.

A spokesman said: “It is very likely that there are still some gems out there, just waiting to be discovered.”

The waters around Gibraltar, renowned for wreck-driving, have yielded up countless Roman and Phoenician treasures.

And, further up the coast, off Portugal, the recovery of the Spanish frigate Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes, which sank in 1804, sparked an eight-year legal wrangle over ownership, which was won by Spain in 2015.

But much of Spain’s sunken treasure lies under the stretch of ocean between its own shores and its old New World colonies.

Many ships in the Spanish Treasure Fleet, a convoy system adopted from 1566 to 1790 to provide galleons with safe passage, fell prey to tempests, warfare and piracy.

Before the infamous 1715 Spanish Treasure Fleet sunk off the coast of Cuba trying to escape pirates, an earlier, much heavier bounty entered troubled waters.

The San Miguel, believed to be one of the richest treasure galleons ever lost at sea, was the pride and joy of Spanish conquistadors. And it carried huge weight of Inca and Aztec gold when she sank off the Dominican Republic coast in 1551.

The Spanish sent a reconnaissance vessel to retrieve some of the lost gold but salvaged only a small portion.

The first blow to Spain’s fleet of valuable ships, which would inspire El Dorado legends for years, happened when the Spanish salvaged just a small portion of the San Jose’s lost gold.

Various expeditions have been set up to recover the rest of the treasure since the ship sank, over 500 years ago. But nothing has turned up.

Meanwhile, the merchant ship El Salvador, bound for Cadiz in 1750, was loaded up with gold, silver and supplies in Havana, to join six other vessels heading back to Spain.

As the convoy set off from present-day Cape Canaveral, Florida, a hurricane forced the ships into the harsh trade winds of the Gulf Stream, pushing them back up the coast to North Carolina.

The ship, smashing into the outer banks, foundered on the beach near Ocracoke with millions of pesos aboard, as well as four chests of gold coins and 16 chests of silver coins, which still remain buried in the sand.

The Nuestra Señora de Atocha, stashed to the gunnels with gold, copper, silver, gems and indigo from the New World, took all of two months to load on board, but it sailed into troubled waters in 1622.

The Atocha sailed in a convoy of 28 ships for safety reasons, but the weather had other plans. A hurricane hit the convoy, with many of the ships, including the Atocha, perishing in the Florida Keys.

It wasn’t until 1985, following a 16-year search, that American treasure-hunters Mel Fisher and Finley Ricard discovered buried loot, worth almost 500 million dollars, in the waters off Key West.

Yet experts agree a mother lode is still out there, including precious Muzo emeralds. And, according to details of the original manifest, buried in the deep are still 17 tonnes of silver bars, along with 128,000 coins of different values, 27kg of gems and 35 boxes of gold.

Time to put on your diving gear, perhaps!






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Posted by on Jan 26 2018. Filed under World News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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