Searchers have found a Spanish galleon filled with gold that sank to the ocean floor off the Caribbean coast of Colombia over 300 years ago. The remarkable discovery was found with the help of an autonomous underwater vehicle operated by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Details of the ship which is named the San Jose were released Monday with permission from the agencies behind the search.
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Rob Munier, WHOI's vice president for marine facilities and operations, said, "We've been holding this under wraps out of respect for the Colombian government." The location of the wreck of the San Jose has long been sought after by treasure seekers earning it the title the "holy grail of shipwrecks." The San Jose was a 62-gun, three-masted galleon which went down on June 8, 1708, with 600 souls aboard. The ship was carrying a load of treasure including gold, silver, and emeralds when it sank during a battle with British ships in the War of Spanish Succession.
The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution of Massachusetts was invited to join the search because of its expertise in deep water exploration. The WHOI's submersible autonomous vehicle the REMUS 6000 helped find the wreckage of Air France 447 in 2011 which crashed off the coast of Brazil in 2009. The REMUS 6000 located the San Jose with side sonar images in November 2015 that pinpointed the wreckage in more than 2,000 feet of water.
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WHOI engineer and expedition leader Mike Purcell 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. It was a pretty strong feeling of gratification to find it finally. It was a great moment." The shipwreck's loot has been the subject of legal battles between several nations and private companies, but for now, it remains on the seabed.
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