Expedition to 300-year-old shipwreck that could hold Spanish treasure of gold and emeralds worth $20 billion

  • Colombia sending a deep-water expedition to explore the 300-year-old San José shipwreck.

  • The Spanish galleon, discovered in 2015, is believed to hold treasures worth up to $20 billion.

  • The expedition, using advanced undersea technology, is set to begin in spring.

A 300-year-old shipwreck in the Caribbean is believed to hold gold and silver coins, emeralds, and other sunken treasures that could be worth $20 billion.

On Friday, Colombia's government unveiled plans for a groundbreaking deep-water expedition to explore the legendary galleon, San José, dubbed the "holy grail of shipwrecks."

The 62-gun, three-masted galleon sunk in 1708, falling victim to an English squadron while en route to Cartagena. In the ship's hold was accumulated wealth taken from Spain's colonies in South America, including 116 steel chests full of emeralds and millions of gold and silver coins.

The government is committed to investing approximately $4.5 million this year alone in the archaeological exploration of the historic relic.

The first phase of the scientific research will focus on surveying the deep waters surrounding the shipwreck, using state-of-the-art technology to gather vital information.

Oceanographer and navy Rear Adm. Hermann León Rincón told reporters that the venture would use submerged robotic technology, a navy ship, and cameras meticulously tracking movements, per AP.

The wreckage lies at a depth of 600 meters (approximately 2,000 feet).

Colombia discovered the San José in 2015, prompting a slew of legal and diplomatic disputes and shrouding its exact location in secrecy.

The legal battle over the ship's rightful ownership has spilled over into the US, Colombia, and Spain.

Sea Search Armada, a group of American investors, claims $10 billion — 50% of what they assume the galleon treasure is worth, Bloomberg reported.

The group claims to have discovered the sunken sailing ship in 1982.

The Colombian government said it had begun arbitration litigation with the firm.

The Colombian expedition is set to launch in spring depending on weather conditions.

Colombian officials have insisted the expedition is for patrimonial reasons, not a monetary exploit.

Carlos Reina Martínez, archaeologist and underwater cultural heritage expert, said the expedition aims to reveal what life and death was like for the 600 people on board the galleon before it sank, per AP.

Juan David Correa, Colombia's minister of culture, said "History is the treasure."

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