A SPANISH galleon dubbed as the ‘Holy Grail of shipwrecks’ is set to be excavated from its watery grave with an estimated €18 billion in treasure believed to be on board off the coast of Cartagena in Columbia.
Spain is amongst a number of countries and groups that claims the right to part or all of the treasure.
The Colombian government has announced an urgent plan to dredge up the San Jose before President Gustavo Petro’s term ends in 2026.
It will be raised through a public-private partnership and the craft’s bounty is also said to include intact Chinese porcelain, pottery, and cannons.
The galleon was sunk by the British Navy in 1708, during a skirmish in the War of Spanish Succession.
The San Jose went thousands of feet to the bottom of the Caribbean, taking all but 11 of the 600 people on board with it.
Believed to be still on the ship are 200 tons of silver and emeralds, along with an estimated eleven million gold coins, which belonged to the viceroy of Peru.
The wreck was claimed to have been discovered by the Colombian government in 2015, but another group begs to differ.
Sea Search Armada says they made the find in 1981 and it has taken the case to arbitration in a London court, where they’re seeking $10 US billion- roughly half of the ship’s treasure.
Columbia’s Culture Minister, Juan David Correa, said that government divers visited the co-ordinates declared by the private company and found nothing.
The London court case is not the only claim on the sunken treasure.
Spain says its entitled to a share of the bounty as the San Jose was a Spanish vessel carrying mostly Spanish passengers.
Peru and Panama are also asserting ownership because the goods were originally stolen from their lands, while the Bolivian indigenous Qhara Qhara nation wants a percentage because their ancestors, they say, were forced to mine the treasures in the 16th century.
Juan David Correa said that the Colombian government hopes to establish an archaeological lab which would ‘clean, inventory, and study the San Jose’, before moving the wreck to a national museum.