When the British warship Lord Clive was blasted by Spanish cannon fire just off the coast of Uruguay in 1763, about 270 crew members went down with the ship. Now a treasure hunter from Argentina hopes it's also still home to more than $1 billion in gold coins, reports the London Times—half of which he could be entitled to. Ruben Collado also thinks the ship is stocked with the likes of rum, opium, and silk, and he plans to prove it by raising the vessel next month. Collado himself found the ship by accident in 2004, just 380 yards off the coast and 16 feet underwater. (Spaniards had pinned it under rocks to keep it submerged). The shallow depth is what gave up its location: Collado's vessel struck its mast in the River Plate estuary, reported AFP. He then waited more than a decade for Uruguay's permission to salvage it.
The Lord Clive went down during a military mission amid the Seven Years' War, in which British and Portugal were trying to take the city of Colonia del Sacramento. Collado thinks the 64-gun ship, which belonged to the British East India Company, made the fatal error of anchoring too close to shore, within range of Spanish cannons. The Feb. 10 operation is expected to cost about $5 million for the team of 80 divers, technicians, and other support staff to raise the ship. The hope is that it can shed more light on British naval expeditions in South America. "The rescue of the ship would have an impact on the city no less important than when UNESCO declared it, justly, a World Heritage Site," says Colonia's director of tourism. (One famous wreck has been particularly dangerous for divers.)