For as long as people have told stories, they’ve spun tales of lost treasure. The golden city of El Dorado, the treasure of Plum Island, buried pirate treasure and lost Nazi gold trains have all found their way into our collective imagination, begging us to ask ourselves… are there any treasures left to be discovered? In the modern world, where finances tend to exist on spreadsheets rather than in wooden trunks, there’s a certain romance to the idea of hidden wealth lying in wait beneath our feet — or often, deep beneath the ocean’s surface.
For more than three hundred years, a three-masted Spanish galleon named the San Jose has been among those legends of lost treasure. The flagship of the Spanish fleet, this massive vessel carried 62 cannons and vast quantities of gold, silver and emeralds from the mines in Peru back to the Spanish monarch. Eventually the ship and it’s 600 man crew disappeared below the depths of the Caribbean — on June 8, 1708, the San Jose was lost in battle during the War of Spanish Succession. The British ships that sunk it tried to close with the vessel fast enough to scramble on board and secure its bounty, but to no avail.
As the ship, and its treasure, slipped beneath the waves, a legend was born. Known to many as “the Holy Grail of shipwrecks,” the San Jose carried so much treasure that merchants all throughout Europe and the new North American colonies felt the reverberating effects for years to come. Adjusted for inflation, it’s believed the treasure aboard the San Jose alone was worth over $17 billion. That’s more than enough to spur a legend or two.
However, the San Jose is far more than a legend, as confirmed by a team of researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), who discovered the wreck off the coast of Cartagena, Colombia, in 2015, and who have only now gone public with their discovery.