It’s been dubbed the “Holy Grail” of shipwrecks, and new video shows just how bountiful the booty might be.
Gold coins and other treasures appear in footage captured of the long-sunken San José galleon, and officials announced this week that they have discovered an additional two shipwrecks not far away.
The San José galleon sunk in 1708 near Colombia’s Caribbean port of Cartagena. According to the BBC, some historians believe its treasure — estimated to include at least 200 tons of gold, silver and emeralds — could be worth billions of dollars.
Colombian President Iván Duque and naval officials confirmed Monday that a remotely operated underwater vehicle was sent 900 metres below the ocean’s surface and was able to capture new photos and video of the wreck.
The Colombian navy, which inspected the contents of the images and video, has confirmed the presence of gold coins in several of the shots.
Also spotted were gold ingots, cannons made in Seville in 1655, and an intact Chinese dinner service.
The underwater vehicle also discovered two other shipwrecks in the area, including a schooner thought to be from about two centuries ago.
“We now have two other discoveries in the same area, that show other options for archaeological exploration,” navy commander Admiral Gabriel Perez said.
CBS News reports that the wreck of the San José galleon was first found off Colombia’s coast in 2015, but it has been untouched since as Spain, Bolivia, and Colombia try to determine who has rights to the booty.
When the boat sunk, Colombia was a colony of Spain, and the treasure included gold from modern-day Peru and Bolivia.
Earlier this year, Colombian Vice-President Marta Lucía Ramírez said in a statement that any artifacts from the wrecks would be placed in a museum, “which will be a source of pride for Colombia, the Caribbean and the world”.
She also said that it would be “totally irresponsible” to collect and sell the treasure for profit.
According to CBS, a presidential decree released last week states that those interested in excavating the wreckage will have to sign a “contract” with Colombia, and will be required to submit their plans for handling the recovered items as well as a detailed inventory of their finds.
The famed 64-gun, three-mast vessel was transporting gold, silver and precious stones to King Philip V of Spain when it was sunk by the British navy off Cartagena de Indias. Only a few of the 600-member crew survived.
“The idea is to recover it and to have sustainable financing mechanisms for future extractions,” Duque said Monday. “In this way, we protect the treasure, the patrimony of the San Jose galleon.”
— with files from Reuters