Sea Stories

Three most valuable maritime losses revealed

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On November 14, 1854, during a severe storm off the coast of Balaklava, the British frigate Prince did not have time to gain a safe haven in the bay. The stricken vessel loaded with equipment and money destined for the war in Crimea crashed on the rocks and sank to the sea bed. Of the 150 people on board, only six survived. 

Journalists named the ship Black Prince. Treasure hunters from many different nations have been trying for 150 years to find gold, which was allegedly transported by a frigate. We recall what legendary treasures were found on the seabed.

San Jose and $22 billion. In the Caribbean Sea, 40 km from Cartagena, the Spanish galleon San Jose rests on the seabed. Such a vessel would typically have in its compartment below decks gold, silver and precious stones worth up to $22 billion in today’s prices.

These treasures were mined in Peru and were intended for King Philip V of Spain, who was draining the resources of his colonies to finance the War of the Spanish Succession.

In 1708, San Jose left Panama with an invaluable cargo on board and headed for Cuba, to then sail to Spain. Not so fast for muggers were lurking in the sea corridors of the Atlantic: British ships were waiting and attacked the galleon off the coast of Cartagena. San Jose won the battle but was not in the best condition. Due to severe damage, the ship went to the bottom along with the sailors and cargo.


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Only in 2015, with the help of an underwater robot, it was possible to find an underwater ship. Neither the stricken vessel nor the treasure has yet been raised to the surface. Several countries are vying for this opportunity.

Black Swan project and $500 million: In 2007, the American underwater exploration company Odyssey Marine Exploration transported a giant treasure, 17 tons of silver and gold coins, from Gibraltar to Florida. Where the researchers discovered this condition was kept a closely guarded secret.

Only later, during the trial, it was proved that the discovered cargo was transported by the Spanish frigate Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes, which sank off the coast of Portugal in 1804. It was sunk by ships of the British navy waiting to pounce.

In 2012, the US Supreme Court ruled that the recovered treasure, estimated at $500 million, must be returned to Spain. They are now kept in the National Museum of Underwater Archaeology in Cartagena.

Nuestra Senora de Atocha and $450 million: The Spanish galleon Nuestra Senora de Atocha sank in 1622 off the coast of Florida in a storm. All passengers on board perished, with the exception of three sailors and two slaves.

The valuables the vessel was transporting also sunk to the seabed: gold and silver bars, silver coins with a total weight of more than 40 tons, as well as tobacco, copper, weapons and jewellery. The crash site of the galleon was discovered after years of searching on July 20, 1985, by treasure hunter Mel Fisher. Values totalling $ 450 million were raised from the bottom.

Recommended book UNKNOWN SAGAS OF THE SEAS VOL. I by Michael Walsh

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