Colombia to salvage legendary shipwreck loaded with treasure

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Colombia to salvage legendary shipwreck loaded with treasure

July 08, 2017 - 15:02
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Colombia works to salvage Spanish treasure ship loaded with estimated $1 billion in gold, jewels amid legal challenge from a US salvage company who insists that it deserves a share of the treasure that went down with the San Jose galleon three centuries ago.

Spanish galleon San José explodes during Wager's Action a naval confrontation on 8 June 1708, between a British squadron under Charles Wager and the Spanish treasure fleet, as part of the War of Spanish Succession.. Oil on canvas by Samuel Scott

The San Jose was part of the fleet of King Philip V, who fought the English during the War of Spanish Succession and around 600 people died in the ship wreck. The ship, which sank in 1708, was found in 2015 by the Colombian navy and the country’s archaeology institute near the port of Cartegena.

The San Jose’s manifest showed it was carrying jewels and coins worth an estimated $1 billion. So far, sonar images revealed bronze cannons, arms, ceramics and other artifacts in the wreckage.

Legal dispute

The San Jose was the subject of a legal dispute between Colombia and Sea Search Armada, a U.S.-based salvage company, which said in 1981 it had located the area where the ship sank. The company and the government agreed to split any proceeds from the wreckage, but the government later said all treasure would belong to Colombia, a view that was backed by a U.S. court in 2011.

In a news conference Wednesday, President Juan Manuel Santos said an unnamed “investor” will finance the rescue of the Spanish galleon, which was sunk by the British Navy in 1708 off Colombia’s Caribbean coast. Santos said he couldn’t reveal the name of the investor until July 14, but said it’s someone, or an institution, “that will guarantee a process that’s respectful of the historical and cultural value of the galleon.

According to President Santos the investor had agreed to a public-private partnership that will bring together a “dream team” of archaeologists and engineers to salvage the wreck and put it on display in the tourist port city of Cartagena.

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