The Government of Colombia delayed today the award to a private company of the work of extraction of the remains of the Spanish galleon Saint Joseph (sunk the June 8, 1708 by the British fleet and loaded with innumerable riches). The Executive of Iván Duque has legal doubts about the procedure, so he will ask for the opinion of the Council of State. EL PAÍS publishes 3D images of what society Maritime Archeology Consultans (MAC) has detected almost 600 meters deep off the coast of Cartagena de Indias.
It is a wreck of more than 35 meters in length (it originally had more than 40), of which dozens of bronze cannons and hundreds of ceramic pieces of the K'ang-Hsi period stand out (Quing Dynasty), although it is possible that the ship also loaded almost 200 tons of gold in coins and bars, in addition to thousands of shields, since it had been stowed in Portobelo (Panama) with shipments from the mines of Peru. The first surveys have not revealed the causes of the sinking, but historians believe that the most likely motive is an explosion inside the ship.
The location of the galleon occurred in 2015 thanks to the crossing of data obtained in various Spanish, British and North American archives. Roger E. Dooley, head of the search project and president of MAC, found a letter that gave him the key to the location. It was a letter that the governor of Cartagena (a city besieged by the English) sent to Spain, using to circumvent the blockade a small boat that reached Santiago de Cuba. In it he was aware of the British attack on the Tierra Firme Navy – three galleons, two frigates, one urca and 10 merchants – in the vicinity of the island of Barú. "It is not known why it sank[the[elSaint Joseph], because it was not flown, maybe because of its bad careening or the product of the artillery roars were the causes, "the governor wrote.
The Battle of Barú (June 8 to 9, 1708) between the British fleet (captained by Admiral Charles Wager) and the Spanish fleet (commanded by Captain General José Fernández de Santillán) ended with the defeat of Felipe's ships V and the collapse among others of Saint Joseph, after facing the Expedition. A huge explosion caused the Spanish ship to sink and damaged the Briton when it was very close.
The work of prospecting by MAC, which was approved in 2015 by the Colombian Ministry of Culture, and supervised by the Colombian Institute of Anthropology and History (ICAHN), has been carried out thanks to the tracking of the General Archive of the Indies (Seville ), the Simancas (Valladolid), the National Historical, the National Library of Spain, the British Library, the Naval Museum (Madrid) and the Library of Congress (USA).
In the latter, Doodley found an unpublished plan of Cartagena de Indias made in 1729. It detailed the historical toponymy of the coast, which does not exactly correspond to the current one. Among the novelties obtained, the existence of a low called The Admiral (currently called Tortuguilla), which makes clear reference to how the Spaniards called Commodore Charles Wage. With all these data, and the discovery of the nautical routes in the Caribbean reported by Alonso Barroso in 1689, Doodley reconstructed the crossing of the captain and determined its location.
Located the place sent a sonar of high and low frequency mounted on an underwater vehicle (AUV) to carry out the photographic record. On December 26, 2015, he discovered "an anthropogenic anomaly" and began to photograph. The images of glass and ceramic pieces, as well as 62 bronze cannons, began to be transmitted to the oceanographic ship ARC Malpelo. The armament found presents flat butts with dolphins in the form of a handle. The ship, which was launched in Usurbil (Ria de Orio, Gipuzkoa), was initially fired with 46 guns, although in Cádiz it was given more manga and its defenses were increased to 64 pieces.
To establish an excavation plan the Norwegian company Swire Seabed sent to the depths two submarine robots (ROV) of 3.7 tons and 2.5 meters in length that can descend to almost 3,000 meters, transport 200 kilos of cargo and drill the subsoil marine to extract samples. A total of 4,782 sonar images, 102,624 underwater photographs and 554 short videos were recorded.
But the Colombian government, in a note issued today, maintains that "taking into account the different studies on the possible existence of multiple shipwrecks [en la zona] that are part of the submerged archaeological heritage, with respect to some of which applications have been filed, it is necessary to establish clear legal bases that also set a course within the framework of a public policy related to the findings ".
Spain has always claimed to be part of that process, since it is a military ship with immunity under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Sea. Colombia never signed this treaty and its courts failed in February 2018 that belongs to him for being in territorial waters of this country.
What hides the Colombian sea that attracts treasure companies so much? Historical documents only indicate that the Saint Joseph It carried, officially, 553. 439 pesos (each peso was equivalent to about 27 grams of silver) in payments and donations in coins and in silver and gold bars.
The official cargo constituted only between 10 and 20% of the total cargo, because it did not include what the individuals carried aboard and the contraband. In sunken shipwrecks, even valuable objects have been found hidden inside the canyons in order not to pay real taxes.
Some sources say that the ship carried 11 million escudos (3.4 grams of gold per coin), but the calculation is excessive because it was not until 1696 when Lima was authorized to produce this type of coins. We know that almost all of the pieces sent to Spain as eight-shield coins.
If the total production in America is added from 1696 to 1707 of coins of eight shields, the figure of 531,537 pieces is obtained. Therefore, if all the production of Lima was sent to Portobelo to be picked up by the fleet – something quite improbable – and the treasure was divided 50% between the admiral and the captain, each of them would charge 265,786 escudos. Anyway, if all the shields that could take in the form of contraband were added, it would not reach the million escudos. Experts believe that all the production of the mints of Lima and Santa Fe during 1696 and 1707 would not weigh more than 15 tons.