The country's largest publicly traded shipwreck exploration company has three promising finds but faces hurdles in opening the treasure chests.
In October 1804, four Spanish frigates approached the port of Cadiz in southwestern Spain, laden with South American treasure.
The loot was meant to bankroll Spain, nominally neutral but tacitly allied with Napoleon against Britain. Four British frigates met the treasure fleet.
In the ensuing Battle of Cape St. Mary, the British captured three of the Spanish ships. The fourth, the Mercedes, exploded.
Historical novelist Patrick O’Brian integrated the conflict into one of his novels, with fictional hero Capt. John “Lucky Jack” Aubrey awed as the Mercedes’ powder magazine destroyed the ship in “a blast so huge it wiped out thought and almost consciousness: the Mercedes blew up in a fountain of brilliant orange light that pierced the sky.”