Colombia Designates ‘Holy Grail’ Of Shipwrecks Believed To Carry Merchandise Worth Billions As Protected

(Photo by LOIC VENANCE/AFP via Getty Images)

Ilan Hulkower Contributor
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The Republic of Colombia announced Wednesday in a press release that they designated the wreckage of the San Jose galleon as a “Protected Archaeological Area.

The Colombian government called the San Jose wreckage “one of the most important of the colonial period in America” and announced they were also launching a multiphase research project around the ship, the press release reads. (RELATED: 15th Century Weapons Chest Discovered By Divers May Shed Light On ‘Military Revolution’)

The San Jose, a ship belonging to the Spanish crown, was sunk by the British navy in 1708 with only a few of its 600-strong crew surviving the incident, CBS News reported. The ship was reportedly believed to be carrying 200 tons of gold coins, silver and chests of emeralds worth billions today

The wreckage has been object of adventurers for years and was dubbed the “holy grail” of shipwrecks, the outlet noted. Colombia reportedly announced that they found the long-lost remains of the galleon back in 2015.

The finding of the ship sparked a wave of claims over its remains. Spain laid claim to it based on a United Nations (UN) convention Columbia is not a signatory of, and Indigenous Qhara Qhara Bolivians have claimed the riches on the San Jose belong to them, CBS News reported. Sea Search Armada, a U.S. salvage business, has reportedly claimed they discovered the vessel over 40 years prior and has sought financial compensation of $10 billion through the UN’s Permanent Court of Arbitration. Columbia’s government has insisted on laying claim to it for scientific and cultural purposes, according to the outlet.

The Colombian government observed that their declaration of the wreckage as protected marked a “historical milestone for the management of the country’s submerged cultural heritage, being the first protected archaeological area in maritime environments and one of the few in the world in waters 600 meters deep,” the press release reads.