It was on 8 June 1708 that Spanish galleon San José erupted into flames off the coast of Cartagena, Colombia. The ship had been at battle with the British since late afternoon, and by night, the 62-cannon galleon had disappeared into the Caribbean Sea.
With it, sunk nearly 600 people and up to $20bn worth of gold, silver and jewels.
For centuries, the San José galleon lay lost on the ocean floor. But the mystery surrounding the ship began to unravel in 2015, when the Colombian government announced it had officially been found. Four years later, the galleon is still 600m deep in Colombian waters. Now, it’s at the centre of a custody dispute among parties all staking claim to the San José’s riches.
The Colombian government hasn’t revealed the exact location of the famed galleon, which is often called the “holy grail” of shipwrecks.
But the San José is said to be located close to the Rosario Islands, a tropical archipelago and national park 40km from Cartagena.
Throngs of small motorboats zoom over the waters as they transport beach-going tourists to the islands each day. While being carried across the sea, it’s difficult not to imagine the San José and its treasure, somewhere out there below.