The Curse of the San Jose Shipwreck


The San José was a 60-gun, 3-masted galleon of the Spanish Navy. It was launched in 1698, and sunk in a battle off the coast of Cartagena, Colombia in 1708 while laden with gold, silver and emeralds worth about $30 billion as of 2017. The silver and gold were mined from the mines of Potosí, Peru. San José is called the "Holy Grail of Shipwrecks". A group of investors from the United States called Glocca Mora Co. operating under the name 'Sea Search Armada' (SSA) claim to have found the ship off the coast of Colombia in 1981, but Colombia refused to sign a 65%/35% share offer and refused SSA permission to conduct full salvage operations at the shipwreck site. The Colombian parliament then passed a law giving the state the right to all of the treasure, leaving SSA with a 5% finder's fee, which was to be taxed at 45%. SSA sued Colombia in its own courts in 1989. 



In July 2007 the Supreme Court of Colombia concluded that any treasure recovered would be split equally between the Colombian government and the explorers. Sea Search Armada subsequently sued in United States courts, but the case was dismissed twice, in 2011 and 2015 on technical grounds, and the galleon declared the property of the Colombian state. The Colombian government declined to verify that the galleon was at the coordinates stated in the case. On 27 November 2015, the galleon San José was found by the Colombian Navy though the discovery was not announced by the President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, until 5 December. The discovery was made using a REMUS 6000 autonomous underwater vehicle. From the dive photographs, Colombian marine archaeologists have identified San José by her bronze cannons engraved with dolphins. Colombia has claimed the galleon as part of its submerged patrimony, thus it is constitutionally obligated to protect and preserve the ship and all its sunken contents. The Government of Colombia has classified the information regarding the location of the galleon as a state secret.





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