A submarine has discovered the 310-year-old ‘holy grail’ of shipwrecks, and it may carry $17 billion in treasure

The San Jose's cannons were identified by researchers.

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The San Jose’s cannons were identified by researchers.
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REMUS image, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

  • A team from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution discovered a 300-year-old shipwreck that may carry up to $17 billion in treasure.
  • The ship, the Spanish galleon San Jose, sank during a battle with British ships in 1708.
  • The researchers identified the San Jose using an autonomous submarine.

How’s this for a lucrative discovery: Researchers found and identified what has been called the “holy grail” of shipwrecks off the coast of Cartagena, Colombia – and it may carry up to $17 billion in treasure, according to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Researchers are now revealing stunning details about the wreck three years after finding it.

The ship in question, the 310-year-old Spanish galleon San Jose, went down in the Caribbean Sea during a 1708 battle with British ships in the War of the Spanish Succession. The ship was carrying tons of valuable gold, silver, and emeralds, now scattered over 600 meters (about 2,000 feet) below the sea.

While the exact location of the ship is being kept a secret, it was identified by Remus 6000, a submarine drone operated by engineers from Woods Hole.

The Remus 6000 is owned by the hedge fund billionaire Ray Dalio through his Dalio Foundation.

The wreck was partially covered in sediment, but the Remus 6000 was able to identify tons of artifacts.

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The wreck was partially covered in sediment, but the Remus 6000 was able to identify tons of artifacts.
source
REMUS image, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

The ship was discovered in 2015, but researchers kept it under wraps. When the team from Woods Hole revisited the site with the autonomous submarine, they found cannons engraved with dolphins – a sign that the ship, without a doubt, was the San Jose.

“I just sat there for about 10 minutes and smiled,” Jeff Kaeli, a Woods Hole engineer, told CBS News about the discovery, adding: “So in that moment I guess I was the only person in the world who knew we’d found the shipwreck.”

Now that the valuable treasure has been found, it may open up a conflict over who it belongs to; both Colombia and Spain have claimed it. The researchers who found the wreck say they aren’t getting involved in an ownership dispute.

“It’s a piece of history that’s sitting on the sea floor that tells a story,” Kaeli said.

Remotely operated submarines like the Remus 6000 have helped researchers identify and investigate shipwrecks all over the world in recent years. In the Gulf of Mexico, scientists and archaeologists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found several previously unidentified shipwrecks thousands of feet below the surface.

“You can take bigger risks with your technology and go to places where it wouldn’t be safe or feasible to put a human being,” Kaeli said.