Spanish shipwreck filled with treasure found at bottom of Caribbean Sea

Spanish shipwreck filled with treasure found at bottom of Caribbean Sea

For their part, WHOI has emphasized that they're explorers rather than treasure hunters, and they're trying to remain clear of the ownership dispute.

United States scientists found the San Jose three years ago off the coast of Colombia, but only now have the full details about how the shipwreck was discovered been released.

Researchers, instructed by the Colombian military to search the area, realized what they had virtually come across by one distinguishing feature - a bronze cannon, which was discovered alongside ceramics, jewels and other historic artefacts.

The autonomous vehicle descended to within 30 feet of the wreck to take photographs, including some of the distinctive dolphin engravings on the San Jose's cannons, which formed a key piece of visual evidence to identify the galleon.

In June 1708, amid the raging War of the Spanish Succession, San José went down to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, with its roughly 600-strong crew, after its gunpowder exploded.

The newfound treasure will be displayed in a new museum built by the Colombian Government, according to a statement.

MAC allowed the WHOI researchers to announce their role in the project this week, although Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos previously tweeted about the shipwreck discovery in 2015.

Mike Purcell, WHOI engineer and expedition leader, said: "The wreck was partially sediment-covered, but with the camera images from the lower-altitude missions, we were able to see new details in the wreckage and the resolution was good enough to make out the decorative carving on the cannons".

The treasure has been the subject of legal battles between several nations as well as private companies.

Tea cups at the wreck site.

Since it was a Spanish ship, Spain has claimed the treasure as its own, while Colombia also claims ownership rights as that's where the ship wrecked over 300 years ago.

The exact location of the shipwreck remains a secret, which comes as little surprise as a treasure rumored to be worth better than $17 billion remains on the sea floor, waiting to be recovered.

It's believed it was carrying 11 million gold and silver coins, emeralds and other precious items from Spanish-controlled colonies.

Of course, the REMUS 6000 is being credited for finding billions of dollars worth of treasure. Meanwhile UNESCO has urged Colombia to not exploit the treasure commercially.

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