The ship of San Jose in its heyday surely boasted some regal credentials, by being a crucial part of the royal convoy during the War of Spanish Succession in early 18th century. Simply put, it was used as a transport for gold coins and other reserves gathered from the Spanish colonies on the other side of the Atlantic. Unfortunately for the Spaniards, the vessel along with its 600 crew members met their untimely demise on June 8, 1708, when the ship tried to outmaneuver a British warship and an explosion sunk it to the bottom of the Caribbean Sea. But even in its wrecked state, the eminent value of the galleon has not gone down – as is evident from the numerous legal battles fought over the years regarding the carried wealth. And now the property-related quarrels are about to get all the more heated up, with researchers finally able to locate the actual shipwreck off the island of Baru, near Cartagena, Colombia.
The researchers in question here constitutes a global task force led by experts from the Colombian Institute of Anthropology and History (ICANH) and accompanied by the Colombian navy. As in the case of the recently assessed Antikythera site, the explorers utilized autonomous underwater vehicles for their combined effort. The results were there to see, with the vehicles able to identify bronze cannons atop the ship that were stamped with dolphin symbols, which is akin to the literary evidences concerning San Jose. The imaging tools also brought out other confirming visuals, including the prevalence of weapons and vases made of ceramic and porcelain.
Now since we brought up literary evidences, according to most contemporary reports, the San Jose was carrying the ‘wet dream’ of every armchair treasure hunter; and this hoard included chests containing precious stones and gems like emerald, along with gold, silver and platinum bars that weighed beyond tons. In accordance with the current value, the treasure hoard is equivalent to anywhere between $4 billion and $17 billion. However, the archaeologists have maintained that they are still in the initial stages of their exploration and analysis, with more salvaging expeditions required to assess the true appraisal of the San Jose stash.
On the other hand, the Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos Calderón has made it clear that any information related to the San Jose findings would remain a secret. This statement probably came in response to the three-decade old legal battle between Seattle-based Sea Search Armada (SSA), a privately-held salvaging company that made its claims regarding the original discovery of the shipwreck back in 1981. But after collaborating with these commercial experts for three years, the Colombian parliament amended a law that altered the finder’s fee from 50 percent to just 5 percent. And finally adding more fuel to the fire, a US court ruled in favor of the Colombian government in 2011, by attributing the entire property carried by the sunk galleon to the Colombian nation. To that end, the president has put forth his plans of displaying the treasure items from the shipwreck in a proximate museum in Cartagena.