The Most Coveted Sunken Treasure

A Spanish galleon that sunk more than 300 years ago now faces Spain and Colombia to see who participates in its rescue.

In its warehouses, the galleon ‘San José’, of the Spanish flag, took gold, silver, emeralds and other precious stones, coins minted and diverse valuable objects. 330 years ago finally sailed to Spain from a port of Cartagena de Indias, with a booty accumulated for six years by the conquerors of America. A treasure that Philip V needed to fuel his War of Succession against the English, who were lurking to sink whatever ship tried to cross the Caribbean Sea. On June 8, 1708, a heavy bullet from the Corsairs reached its flank. The ship went under, in an inaccurate place until the eighties, with pieces for a value that is currently estimated at more than 8,000 million euros.

The company Sea Search Armada (SSA) announced in 1982 that it had discovered where the ‘San José’ rested, and claimed its trunks full of riches. Do sunken treasures belong to whoever finds it, as dictated by the old law of the sea? Is it from the nations in whose maritime waters they have foundered? Or is it the country that waved its flag on the mast? A few years later, Unesco opined: they were archaeological remains of general interest to mankind, prohibited commercial exploitation, recommended leaving them in place, and was inclined to point out that every ship is a small part of the sovereignty of the owners country. In this case, Spain, which also claims the ownership of ‘San José’ as ‘State ship’. But Colombia, which is not a signatory to the Unesco agreement.

A long dialectical and legal battle began. Finally, in 2011 a United States court ruled that all the pieces were owned by the South American country. Meanwhile, the Colombian Navy explored the waters to find the galleon. Only in 2015, President Juan Manuel Santos was able to make the announcement: they had found the lost booty. Now it had to be removed from that tomb 300 meters down, about nine nautical miles from the coast.

The rescue could cost almost 60 million euros, according to the bidding document published this year by the Colombian government. An investment “without disbursement of public resources,” Santos said. Seeing that the conditions for the rescue were advancing, Spain asked him to “reconsider his position”, in the words of the Minister of Culture, Íñigo Méndez de Vigo, in an attempt to redouble the pressure to reach an amicable agreement that incorporates Spain as part of the team, and of the beneficiaries, of the lost wealth.

The Most Coveted Sunken Treasure

“Spain has great experience in recovery in wrecks and we would like to collaborate,” he said on that occasion. The answer came yesterday, during Santos’s visit to Madrid, when he accepted the “collaboration” of Spain and of any other country, to recover this heritage. The battle for the galleon continues,


Source: Diario Sur