The San Jose shipwreck is known by many as the “holy grail of shipwrecks” due to the reason that these sunken Spanish galleon do contain precious cargo. According to most sources, the ships were carrying valuable items which is estimated to be about “billions of dollars” in today’s equivalent currency.

On November 27th, 2015, an expedition group managed to discover the exact location of the shipwreck. This has drawn a lot of curious individuals to ask, “How deep is the San Jose shipwreck?”

With the help of today’s advance technology, the team of explorers had discovered the shipwreck “at a depth of more than 600 meters”.

Remnants of the San Jose Shipwreck

When the San Jose shipwreck was finally discovered at a depth of more than 600 meters below the surface, an underwater photo was taken. Basing from the photo, there are clear images of ceramics and many other human artifacts scattered all over the places.

underwater treasure

The cannons are also clearly visible which includes the sea creatures who made the shipwreck site their own dwelling place.

However, the precious items such as the gold, silver and emeralds cannot be recognized on the photos. The reason is that these objects are probably buried or entirely covered by the muddy sediments of the ocean floor.

Before the Spanish Galleon San Jose got shipwrecked

The San Jose Spanish galleon were actually composed of “three galleon ships” that belonged to the Spanish Navy. These ships were armed with 64-gun to fight and defend themselves.

Ship Battle

San Jose was launched in 1698. But in 1708, they got intercepted by the English warships where they battled in the coast of “Cartagena, Colombia”. Unfortunately, the San Jose galleon ships got lost and sunken down deep at the bottom floor of the sea. There, it rested for many years.

At the time that the Spanish galleon got sunk, they were to known to be carrying gold, silver, emeralds, and jewelries. All these valuables items combined are estimated to have a value of about 17 Billion US dollar.

These treasures were supposedly used to fund the Spanish king’s war effort.

How San Jose Lost from the Battle

The battle happened at the time during the “War of the Spanish Succession”.

It was supposed to be the final voyage of the San Jose where it sailed as the flagship of a treasure fleet in June 1708. The entire fleet was composed of three Spanish warships accompanied by fourteen merchant cargo vessels. These Spanish treasure fleet was under the command of General Jose Fernandez de Santillan.

The fleet was to sail from Portobelo, Panama to Cartagena, Colombia. Unfortunately, they encountered the British fleet near Baru.

What exactly led to the defeat of the Spanish galleon ships was due to the large amount of powder magazines contained by the San Jose which exploded. The explosion actually destroyed the ship wiping out almost all of its crew. Records claim that there were 600 people onboard the ship and out of this number, there were only 11 of them who managed to survive the odds.

Organizations of the Expedition

The discovery of the San Jose shipwreck will not happen without the organizations who made it possible. WHOI (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution) led the expedition while being supervised by the ICANH (Instituto Colombiano de Antropologia e Historia) and DIMAR (Direccion General Maritima).

You might be surprised to know that many professionals who attempted to locate the San Jose shipwreck site had failed for decades. It was a complete puzzle to most treasure hunters, historians and even marine archaeologists.

It’s a good thing that WHOI had finally put an end to this great mystery.

The REMUS 6000 Autonomous Robot

The WHOI used a special autonomous robot called, “REMUS 6000”. It was the first machine sent close enough to the shipwreck site where it took some photos. This robot is owned by the Ray Dalio Foundation.

According to the leader of the WHOI expedition Mike Purcell, REMUS 6000 was the perfect tool for the job because of its capability to conduct long duration of underwater exploration. This is what allowed them to cover wide area of the ocean floor.

The shipwrecked San Jose Spanish galleon ship isn’t actually the first mission that was successfully accomplished by REMUS 6000. It was also the one who manage to discover the wreckage of the Air France 447 back in 2011.

Interestingly, REMUS 6000 was also used to explore the wreck site of the famous “Titanic” shipwreck in 2010. As a result, this amazing underwater vehicle was able to map and photograph the wreck site.

Discovering the San Jose Shipwreck Site

WHOI actually started their operation in their search for the missing San Jose shipwreck in June 2015. REMUS 6000 first started exploring the underwater areas of Malpelo.

To make sure that every corners are covered, they divided the area into search blocks. But due to insufficient time given to the expedition team, REMUS 6000 failed to explore the entire area. This was their first attempt.

On their second attempt, the group came back. This time they got a good hint from the side scan sonar images of the ship’s wreckage site. Basing from those images, they could see a positive strong sonar signal that reflects back.

In order to confirm, REMUS 6000 came into play. Thirty feet above from the wreckage site, the robot explorer captured several photos which revealed the remnants of the San Jose particularly the cannons.

On their succeeding missions, they managed to get closer at a lower altitudes where markings on the unique bronze cannons became much clearer. These decorative markings were “engraved dolphins”.

Roger Dooley was the lead marine archaeologist who studied the images taken by REMUS 6000. With his expertise on this subject, he confirmed that the wreckage was definitely the San Jose.

Findings to be displayed on a Public Museum

It is good to know that the intentions of the organization who discovered and recovered the wreckage of the San Jose was not solely about the treasure. They do understand that all items will best benefit the Colombian’s cultural and historical significance.

By studying those relics or ancient artifacts, a lot of valuable information will surely be extracted from them. There could be clues that may describe Europe’s economic, political and social condition particularly during the early 18th century.

Thus, the Colombian Government are planning to build a museum for the purpose of displaying the discoveries for public view. The museum is somewhat kind of special because it’s going to be a “world-class conservation laboratory”. This is to ensure that the artifacts will be properly maintained and preserved.


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