300-year-old shipwreck contains $17 billion worth of treasure

300-year-old shipwreck contains $17 billion worth of treasure

The treasure is worth as much as $17 billion by modern standards.

The ship in question, the 310-year-old Spanish galleon San Jose, went down in the Caribbean Sea during a 1708 battle with British ships in the War of the Spanish Succession.

"This partnership was key to the discovery of the San Jose, " says Roger Dooley, of the Maritime Archaeology Consultants, who was among leaders of the team of scientists that scoured the ocean for the treasure.

The unmanned underwater vehicle, operated by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), uses far-reaching sonar to identify objects on the seafloor - then circles back to take pictures of anything worthy of a closer look.

The San José, the largest galleon and the flagship of one group of Spanish ships that started sailing in the 16th century, was big and - thanks to 62 bronze cannons engraved with dolphins - deadly enough to deter or destroy ships, whether pirates or rival nations.

Colombia says it will set up a museum to display artifacts from the wreck.

"We've been holding this under wraps out of respect for the Colombian government", said Rob Munier, WHOI's vice president for marine facilities and operations.

The fate of the San Jose's treasure remains unclear, as there have been several lawsuits in recent decades over who has claim to it.

REMUS 6000 being deployed off the Colombian Navy research ship ARC Malpelo.

Every piece of that treasure will remain on the sea floor, at least until the legal battle is won.

REMUS descended to 30 feet above the wreck where it was able to capture photos of a distinguishing feature of the San Jose - its cannons.

Tea cups at the wreck site.

The exact location of the wreck remains a secret - it sank somewhere in the wide area off Colombia's Baru peninsula, south of Cartagena.

It's believed it was carrying 11 million gold and silver coins, emeralds and other precious items from Spanish-controlled colonies. The treasure, unearthed two years ago but reported only now, seems to be in the center of an worldwide dispute, as both Colombia and Spain can theoretically claim it.

Of course, the REMUS 6000 is being credited for finding billions of dollars worth of treasure.

The REMUS 6000 captured a slew of images showing the San Jose to be mostly buried in sediment, at a spot some 600 metres below the surface. Meanwhile UNESCO has urged Colombia to not exploit the treasure commercially.

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