Tonight, the possibility of the Holy Grail of shipwrecks resurfacing after 300 years is closer than ever. Colombian president Gustavo Pedro has ordered the retrieval of the $20 billion treasure, instructing the country’s minister of culture to expedite the process before his term ends in 2026. However, the issue of ownership of the treasure on the San Jose, a Spanish gallion that sank off the coast in 1708, remains in question.
This ship is believed to contain priceless artifacts, gold, silver, gems, and jewelry collected by South American colonies to be shipped to Spain’s king. The precise location of the wreck is a well-kept secret, and while the Colombian Navy claims to have found it in 2015, the American company Search Armada argues that they discovered it in the 1980s and had a deal with Colombia entitling them to half the value of the fortune. They are currently suing Colombia for their share, but Colombia has rejected their ownership rights.
Professor Charles Beaker, an advisor to a Colombian delegation in 2014, suggests that the objects should not be split and that they should be loaned long-term to Spain and exhibited in Central America and Colombia for public benefit. President Pedro is reportedly urging officials to establish a public-private partnership or collaborate with a private firm to recover the riches from the 700-foot water depth.
The cost of underwater work is substantial, but it is believed that remote-operated vehicles can access the site. The challenge lies in ensuring that the artifacts are not used to fund the operation. The pursuit of the treasure comes at a price, but the potential historical significance is an exciting prospect..