Spanish treasure fleets that crossed the Atlantic Ocean to America and back were a 16th-century invention as important as the free two-day cruise. Organized 70 years after Columbus's first voyage, the fleet consisted of several specialized vessels with one main goal: to use the riches of the New World as efficiently as possible.
The San José, the largest galleon and flagship of a group of Spanish ships that began sailing in the 16th century, was large and, thanks to 62 bronze cannons engraved with dolphins, deadly enough to hold ships, whether pirates or rival nations, to deter or destroy.
Except when it did not happen. On June 8, 1708, during the Spanish War of Succession, gunpowder from San José ignited during a battle with British ships and sent 600 sailors to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean – along with gold, silver and emeralds from mines in Peru. The total production amounts today at about $ 17 billion.
It is one of the most expensive naval losses in history. And "the Holy Grail of shipwrecks" remained underwater undetected for more than 300 years.
Enter a tiny diving robot called Remus 6000 – packed with sensors and cameras and able to dive four miles underwater – which has discovered the centuries-old final resting place of the sunken ship
The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) operated unmanned underwater vehicle uses extensive sonar to identify objects on the seafloor – and then circles back to take pictures of something that needs closer inspection
Remus 6000 has used the same tactics to the remnants of Air France 447, two years after he crashed in 2009 off the coast of Brazil.
The wreck of San José was discovered two years ago, but its location in front of the Colombian port of Cartagena and other details have been kept a secret.
On Monday, new details were released by the authorities involved in the search, including the Colombian military, the ferrus Remus 6000 to the search location.
The researchers realized what they had found in a crucial differentiator.
The small ship descended the wreck only 30 feet above
and shot photos of these cannons.
Jeff Kaeli, one of the engineers running the Remus 6000, said he was in his bunk when the first pictures arrived.
"I'm not a marine archaeologist, but … I know what a cannon looks like," he told CBS News. "At that moment, I was probably the only person in the world who knew we had found the shipwreck," he said.
Those who know the coordinates of the find have not extended far beyond the robot and the engineer in part, because the remains of the San José are the subject of another international dispute:
The precious metals and emeralds belong to the bottom of the Atlantiks to the Colombian people or the people of Spain?
The discovery of San José is of great cultural and historical importance to the Colombian government and its population, as a treasure trove of cultural and historical artefacts and evidence of Europe's economic, social and political climate in the early 18th century, "WHOI said Press Release on the Fund.
"The Colombian government plans to build a museum and first-rate conservation laboratory to preserve the contents of the wreck, including cannons, and publicly display Amics and other artifacts.
Woods Hole researchers still say they have no financial interest in the loot.
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