Colombia Finds 'Holy Grail of Shipwrecks'
The sunken treasure could be worth up to $17B
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 5, 2015 3:19 PM CST
Ernesto Montenegro, director of the Colombian Institute of Anthropology and History, talks to the media while he shows a picture of the remains of the galleon San Jose on Saturday.   (AP Photo/ Pedro Mendoza)

(Newser) – "The holy grail of shipwrecks" has finally been found off the coast of Colombia, Mashable reports. "Great news! We have found the San Jose galleon," Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos tweeted Friday. The gold, silver, gems, and jewelry carried by the Spanish galleon—which was sunk by the British in 1708—are thought to be worth anywhere from $1.5 billion to $17 billion. That would make it one of the largest treasures ever lost at sea, according to the BBC. The galleon was carrying its booty—much of which the Financial Times notes likely originated in Peru—from Spain's colonies in South America back home when it was attacked, sinking in 1,000 feet of water 16 miles off the coast of the city of Cartagena. According to the Financial Times, the shipwreck was commemorated in Gabriel García Márquez's Love in the Time of Cholera.

A US company called Sea Search Armada first located the area of the wreck in 1981, Mashable reports. But the company claimed Colombia went back on a deal to split the treasure, leading to decades of lawsuits. An American court eventually ruled the wreck and its treasure belonged to Colombia in 2011. According to the Financial Times, Santos credited the find to the Colombian Institute of Anthropology and History, the National Navy, and "foreign scientists." The head of the institute calls the discovery a "major triumph." And the BBC reports that Santos plans to build a museum in Cartagena to house the treasure—the wreck was discovered near the port city, though Colombia won't say exactly where. (The San Jose may be the holy grail of shipwrecks, but this is the "shipwreck capital of the world.")