Colombian President in Search for a Long-Lost Treasure

Colombian President Gustavo Petro Decided to Search for a Wrecked Ship That Could Hold $20 Billion Worth of Treasure.

Nov 20, 2023By Angela Davic, News, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and Analysis
Colombian President Shipwreck
Samuel Scott, Action Off Cartagena, 28 May 1708, a depiction of the battle that sunk the Spanish galleon San Jose. Collection of the National Maritime Museum, London.


Colombian president Gustavo Petro is in an attempt to salvage an actual shipwreck off the northern coast of the nation. Overall, the ship sank over three centuries ago. Though it may seem like the stuff of fairy tales, one can only pray that scholars are correct when they claim to have buried wealth. This wealth of $20 billion probably sunk with the vessel.


Colombian President Pressures Authorities to Continue the Search

Colombian President Shipwreck
Teacups at the site of the San Jose shipwreck. Photo: courtesy of REMUS image and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.


San José was a magnificent Spanish galleon. Also, it was transporting an impressive amount of loot from Panama in 1708, including tonnes of gold, silver, and emeralds. When the British military sank it, it was almost at its target. This all happened as a part of the British ambush near the Colombian port of Cartagena, a victim of the Spanish Succession Warfare.


Gustavo Petro, the president of Colombia, is currently rushing to get his hands on these assets before his present term expires in 2026. For centuries, the San José’s whereabouts were a mystery. Also, for decades is a topic of a dispute. The Colombian authorities declared in 2015 that it located the coveted boat. But, they kept the location very close to the vest.


Colombian President Gustavo Petro
Gustavo Petro. Via Wikipedia


In 2017, it initially disclosed a rescue effort. However, Petro is apparently pressuring authorities to expedite this procedure. Uploaded video from the wreckage in the previous year indicates that the ship’s shell remains unscathed. The adjacent ocean floor is strewn with money, gold ingots, ceramics, and 1655 Spanish guns. Also, there is a Chinese dinner service.

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Despute With Sea Search Armada

Protesters in Bolívar Square
Protesters in Bolívar Square, Bogotá, demonstrating against Petro’s removal from the mayoralty, March 2014. Via WIkipedia


Additionally, Colombia is addressing a complaint from Sea Search Armada, an American corporation. The business asserts that it located the ship in 1981 and notified Colombian authorities of its whereabouts. But, they had one condition – to obtain half of any wealth found. “Colombia should split nothing”, said Charles Beaker, director of Underwater Science at Indiana University.


“These resources should be protected for public benefit not for private gain”, he added. Colombia declared that it intended to construct a dedicated museum for the Cartagena disaster. Located 700 feet below the surface, the wreck is inaccessible to divers. “It’s still costly to do underwater work”, Beaker said.


olympic hawke collision shipwreck
HMS Hawke and Olympic collide, via


Some archaeologists and heritage advisors say that dredging up the wreck three centuries later is a bad idea, according to the New York Times. “The shipwreck lies there because it has reached equilibrium with the environment”, said the Bogotá-based nautical archaeologist Ricardo Borrero.









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By Angela DavicNews, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and AnalysisAngela is a journalism student at the Faculty of Political Science in Belgrade and received a scholarship for continued education in Prague. She completed her internship at the daily newspaper DANAS and worked as an executive editor at Talas.