Researchers stunned by ‘perfect’ £300million shipwreck treasure
The fortune of the Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes, which sunk in a fight near Portugal’s Cape St Marie in 1804, was raised in an American court after a US salvage company took 594,000 gold and silver coins worth £308 million from the site in 2007.
The curator of Spain’s National Museum of Underwater Archeology, Mr. Ivan Negueruela, said: “The finds are of inestimable scientific and historic value.”
It is believed that the ship was shot down before Spain joined the Napoleonic Wars against Britain. When the Amiens Peace of 1802 broke down, Britain declared war on France in an uneasy peace with Spain.
In 2007 some of the cargo was retrieved by the Odyssey Marine Exploration company, which had it flown to Tampa, Florida. A court in 2012, however, forced the treasure hunters to return the haul to Spain.
The items found had been listed in the ship’s manifest, including cutlery inscribed with a passenger’s name. An archaeological report said: “Mention should be made of the perfection with which the documentary sources coincide with archaeological evidence in this case.”
Elisa de Cabo, the Spanish Culture Ministry’s deputy director of national heritage said in 2012 the find was “invaluable”.
She added: “How would you put a price on the Mona Lisa?”
A similar find could be made this year as researchers from both Spain and Mexico hope to unearth a historic Spanish galleon that fell to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico in October 1631.
The ship is called the Nuestra Senora del Juncal (Our Lady of Juncal) and sank to the depths while carrying gold, silver, and jewels that could be worth billions today. The vessel and its sailors were hit by vicious storms as they made their way to Spain, and even before the challenging weather, the crew was stripped of its commander due to illness.
With the ship slowly becoming flooded with water, and repair desperately needed, the Nuestra Senora del Juncal plugged away through two weeks of relentless storms.
Dr. Iván Negueruela, the director of Spain’s National Museum of Underwater Archaeology, has claimed the chances of locating and finding the ship are looking good.
He said: “Because the cargo was so valuable – it was carrying lots of ingots – the authorities had a detailed inventory.
“The survivors were also questioned in-depth and their statements help us to reconstruct what happened with quite a high degree of accuracy, so we have a fairly good idea of where the ship sank.”