The vast majority of our planet is covered by water, and beneath the waves lies not only a wealth of undiscovered marine life, but also an abundance of lost treasures. Humans have been crossing the seas for thousands of years, with evidence of sea travel dating back 60,000 to 70,000 years ago. As trade between cultures began to flourish, ships were used to transport goods, including valuable minerals extracted from the earth. However, not all voyages were successful, and the fate of ships that never reached their destination has captured the imagination of treasure hunters. Although countless treasures remain lost, we explore some of the most remarkable underwater discoveries ever made. One such discovery is that of the Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes.
Back in 1804, there was a Spanish frigate called Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes. This ship was carrying treasure such as gold, silver, and spices from Uruguay to Spain when it met its unfortunate fate. The British Navy intercepted the ship near Portugal and requested to search it, but the Spanish crew declined. In what ensued to be a fierce battle against four British Royal Navy ships, the Spanish frigate was sunk, claiming more than 200 lives. The ship sank due to a single bullet that hit the vessel. The few survivors were taken captive by the British.
After two centuries, the sunken ship’s treasures were discovered, bringing about controversy regarding who truly owned the goods.
Back in 2007, Odyssey Marine Exploration made an exciting discovery off the coast, believing that they had found a British ship dating back to 1641. However, even though they uncovered a massive amount of treasure worth $500 million from the recovery of Las Mercedes, the team was not allowed to keep it. In 2012, the Spanish government took legal action and successfully reclaimed what was rightfully theirs – 17 tons of silver and numerous gold coins. Since then, a fascinating exhibition showcasing the treasure and the shipwreck’s history has been traveling to various Spanish public museums such as the Spanish Naval Museum and the National Archaeological Museum of Spain. Another notable shipwreck is the SS Gairsoppa.
Once upon a time, there was a cargo ship named SS Gairsoppa that belonged to the British. The ship was on its way back from India, carrying a large amount of silver ingots as cargo. However, while on the voyage, the ship encountered a massive storm, which forced the captain to change the route to Ireland instead of England. Unfortunately, it was 1941, and World War II was ongoing.
As fate would have it, the Germans spotted the ship, thanks to their plane. They immediately sent a message containing the ship’s location to their U-boat for an attack. The German U-boat launched a torpedo at the SS Gairsoppa, and the ship sank, causing the loss of 85 lives.
Now, decades after the tragic incident, something unusual happened. The wreckage of the ship was discovered, and it contained one of the largest sunken treasures in history. As expected, the treasure sparked a rush of excitement among treasure hunters worldwide. But who rightfully owned the treasure? The question remained a mystery.
In conclusion, the tragic story of SS Gairsoppa and its sunken treasure will forever remain one of the unforgettable tales of the sea.
The search for silver aboard the SS Gairsoppa has been a quest of treasure seekers for many years. However, it was only in 2011 that Odyssey Marine Exploration’s team finally discovered the ship, which had sunk more than 14,000 feet below the surface after the war. The team has since recovered over 110 tons of silver ingots from the ship. After operating costs have been deducted, Odyssey kept 80% of the find, while Her Majesty’s Treasury received 20%. Along with the silver, various items such as letters, bottles, teapots, and silk sheets were retrieved. These objects were put on display at London’s Postal Museum as part of the “Voices From the Deep” exhibition. Another notable treasure is the Caesarea Treasure.
Back in 96 BC, Herod the Great built Caesarea, an ancient port located in Israel, following the Roman conquest during Cleopatra’s reign. This town had major significance as it served as a crucial port under the Romans and Byzantines until the Crusades. So, it’s safe to say that this place has a rich history worth exploring.
Back in 2016, a couple of divers stumbled upon a shipwreck from the Roman era near the port. The ship had been submerged for over 1,700 years and contained an assortment of ancient artifacts like bronze statues, pottery, and coins. These items have since been collected by Israel’s Antiquities Authority. This sunken vessel is now known as the Caesarea Gold.
In the Mediterranean Sea, not just one, but multiple treasures have been discovered recently. Among them are the ancient docks of Caesarea which were eroded by saltwater over time, but eventually uncovered gold. It’s a classic case of “finders keepers”!
Back in 2015, a group of adventurous divers made a remarkable discovery while exploring the submerged docks of yesteryears. They stumbled upon a trove of 2,000 gold coins that are believed to have been minted over a thousand years ago around 900 A.D. The coins have an interesting history as they were made in two different locations, Cairo, Egypt, and Palermo, Italy. Fast forward to 2018, and the treasure was finally showcased at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, where visitors from all over the world could admire its beauty and historical significance. Another famous treasure that has made headlines in the past is Nuestra Senora de Atocha.
In 1622, the Nuestra Senora de Atocha met a tragic fate off the Florida Keys. The Spanish ship was on its way to Havana when it encountered a fierce hurricane that caused it to sink, claiming the lives of all but five aboard. The vessel had just returned from successful voyages to Colombia and Panama, where it had gathered an impressive collection of treasures including gold, gems, copper, silver, indigo, and tobacco intended for King Philip IV. Despite the tragedy, some treasure hunters have been lucky enough to stumble upon the sunken vessel and claim a portion of its valuable cargo.
Mel Fisher, a treasure hunter, stumbled upon the wreckage of a ship in 1985 and affectionately named it the “Mother Lode” because of its enormous wealth estimated at $450 million. The treasures found from this discovery can be viewed at the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum located in Key West, Florida. The sunken vessel was identified as Santa Margarita.
Back in 1622, a powerful hurricane caused the loss of not just the Atocha ship, but also seven other Spanish vessels that carried valuable treasures such as gold, silver, and precious gems. Among these sunken ships was the Santa Margarita galleon. In the pursuit of these lost treasures, the old saying “finders keepers” might come into play.
Following the successful excavation of the Atocha, Mel Fisher’s Treasures embarked on a search for the Santa Margarita. Despite Mel Fisher’s death in 1998, his family continues to run the company. In 2009, a significant discovery was made, comprising gold bars, silver coins, and thousands of pearls worth almost $20 million. However, there is still $50 million of missing silver bars and coins, according to historical records. This ongoing search is part of the exploration for the 1715 Treasure Fleet.
Spain didn’t lose hope in retrieving its gold even after the mishap of losing its ships in 1622. As a matter of fact, in 1715, a group of vessels sailed from Havana to Spain carrying precious gold and jewels gathered from various regions of Central and South America. The notion of “finders keepers” did not apply in this case for Spain.
In 2014, a group of divers stumbled upon a remarkable discovery in a shallow 15-feet deep area known as the 1715 Treasure Fleet. This discovery included precious gold coins and jewels worth a staggering $1 million. Their mission began after a family found a washed-up gold chain and filigree while strolling along the Treasure Coast in eastern Florida. The event ultimately led to the uncovering of the San Jose treasure.
Back in the day, Cartagena, Colombia served as the starting point for numerous ships transporting valuable treasures to Spain. One such ship, the San Jose galleon, was fully loaded with emeralds, gold, and silver in 1708 when it fell under attack by the British forces. Unfortunately, the ship lost the fight and sank, taking down with it not only its precious cargo but also close to 600 crew members. Today, the remains of the San Jose galleon and its treasures still lie undiscovered on the ocean floor. Will they ever be found? Who knows, but one thing’s for sure: finders keepers!
After almost three centuries, the San Jose was finally found with its valuable treasures estimated at $20 billion. This shipwreck has been dubbed as the “Holy Grail” of sunken ships and is believed to have been located near the Rosario Islands situated along the Colombian coast. Unfortunately, the Colombian government has kept mum about the discovery of this significant historical artifact. Another notable sunken city is Heracleion.
Once a bustling port city called Thonis-Heracleion, the ancient city of Heracleion was established around the 8th century BC at the opening of the Nile River. Unfortunately, fate had different plans for this city as it faced devastating earthquakes and a massive tsunami that led to its downfall. Buildings were swallowed by the sea, and the city was abandoned. However, in recent times, explorers have discovered the remains of this once magnificent city, and it has become a treasure trove of sorts.
Back in 2000, a fascinating discovery was made by Frank Goddio, who is an expert in underwater archaeology. He uncovered an ancient city that was submerged under the sea, just like the legendary Atlantis. The saltwater helped preserve the ruins of the city including statues, buildings, and other remains, making it an important archaeological find. Additionally, Goddio found jewels, coins, and other artifacts that are considered priceless. This discovery led to an exhibition called “Osiris, Sunken Mysteries of Egypt,” which showcased 250 of Goddio’s discoveries. The exhibition was held at the Arab World Institute in Paris in 2015 and included pieces on loan from various Egyptian museums. This city discovered by Goddio was named Neapolis.
Heracleion wasn’t the sole city that was engulfed by a tsunami. Another victim was the Roman city of Neapolis, which met the same fate near the North African coast almost 1,700 years ago. Neapolis was hit by a mighty tsunami after an earthquake in 365 AD, causing a loss of almost 50 acres. The earthquake, which was believed to be of magnitude 8.0, caused significant damage to Alexandria and Crete too. As they say, finders keepers.
In 2017, a group of divers made an exciting discovery off the coast of Tunisia – the remains of an underwater city. Among the findings were Roman columns, household items and tools that belonged to the population that once lived there. Surprisingly, researchers also found intact streets in the ruins that cover acres beneath the sea. This is truly a fascinating find!
Back in the day, the US was shipping some pretty valuable items across the sea. The SS Central America was a steamship that sailed between the US and Central America back in the 1850s. Unfortunately, during one of its voyages in 1857, it encountered a brutal hurricane off the coast of South Carolina. Tragically, out of the 578 people on board, 425 lost their lives. But that wasn’t the only loss – the ship was also carrying a whopping 30,000 pounds of gold from the Gold Rush. It was a massive blow to the economy and caused quite a financial crisis when it disappeared. It’s hard to believe that such a valuable treasure could be lost at sea, but as they say, “finders keepers.”
The discovery of the “Ship of Gold” had been a long-awaited event for treasure hunters, and it was finally unearthed by Tommy Thompson in 1988. However, the discovery led to a fierce legal battle among Thompson and his investors over the $50 million worth of gold found onboard. Eventually, Thompson went into hiding, but he was eventually caught. Despite being caught, Thompson refused to reveal the location of the treasure. In 2014, another $40 million was recovered from the sunken ship. The tale of the “Ship of Gold” continues to captivate many to this day.
Prior to the devastating hurricane that destroyed the 1715 Fleet, other vessels filled with precious gems and riches were lost off Florida’s Treasure Coast. The San Miguel, a Spanish aviso ship built for swift delivery of correspondence between Spain and its colonies, was one such vessel dating back to 1660. Sadly, the ship never returned to Spain and is rumored to have brought a deadly disease to the indigenous people of Florida. As the saying goes, finders keepers.
Back in 1987, a couple of surfers who were surfing in Jupiter, Florida, stumbled upon a canon floating in the sea. They immediately informed a beach lifeguard about their discovery. Upon investigation, the lifeguard found the canon and initiated a recovery project. Though the shipwreck was not as rich in treasure as the 1715 Fleet, scuba divers managed to recover a 78-pound silver ingot and some rare silver and gold coins. This shipwreck has come to be known as Pulaski.
Back in 1838, a steamship embarked on a journey from Savannah, Georgia, to Baltimore with over 200 passengers on board. The lucky few who were wealthy and influential enough to travel by steamship were among them. Among the passengers was Congressman William B. Rochester of New York, who unfortunately went down with the Pulaski after a boiler explosion caused it to sink. The news of this tragic event made headlines long before the Titanic disaster. However, only 59 people survived. It’s a reminder that life is precious and unpredictable.
Last year, a team of marine archaeologists made an exciting discovery when they found a collection of gold coins in the wreckage of the Pulaski, a ship that sunk off the coast of North Carolina. The coins, which include 14 gold and 24 silver pieces, were estimated to be worth around $12,000. Now, a new expedition is being planned with the aim of uncovering more treasures from the sunken vessel. The Pulaski sank in just 45 minutes, and the team hopes to learn more about its history and the events that led up to its demise.
Just a couple of years following the sinking of the Pulaski, another passenger ship met its untimely demise off the shores of South Carolina. The North Carolina, a 200-foot steamer, collided with her sister ship, but luckily all passengers were able to evacuate before the ship went under as it was so close to land. Unfortunately, the cargo did not share the same fate. It sank along with the vessel.
The Pulaski recovery team, Blue Water Ventures, has discovered a shipwreck at a depth of only 80 feet under the water. The wreckage has earned the moniker “Copper Pot” and is a popular spot for recreational divers. During their initial dive, the team uncovered a treasure trove of coins from the 1830s and ’40s, including sought-after $5 gold coins. Other valuable items, such as fine china and silverware, were also found. This exciting discovery adds to the rich history of underwater treasures waiting to be uncovered.
During the 9th century, the Belitung ship embarked on a journey from Oman to China through the Maritime Silk Route for the purpose of trade. The vessel was carrying a significant amount of ceramics that were produced in Ding kilns. Unfortunately, the Arabian ship lost its way and sank while passing through Singapore Strait. The wreckage of the ship was later discovered, and the finders claimed ownership of the artifacts they found.
Back in 1998, the Belitung, also referred to as the Tang, was found by fishermen, which was a unique discovery. The shipwreck was discovered in the Gelasa Strait of Indonesia and contained a vast number of artifacts, including around 60,000 pieces of Changsha ware, which is considered to be worth approximately $90 million. Currently, this collection is displayed at the ArtScience Museum located in Singapore. Another significant shipwreck is the Whydah Galley.
In the early 1700s, a fully rigged galley ship called the Whydah Galley was captured by pirate Samuel “Black Sam” Bellamy. Originally used as a slave ship, the pirates sailed it to Colonial America where it eventually ran aground off Cape Cod. Due to its cargo of loot, the pirate crew claimed “finders keepers” and the Whydah Galley remains a significant piece of pirate history.
Barry Clifford, an explorer who specializes in underwater archaeology, made a remarkable discovery in 1984 when he found the Whydah. This pirate shipwreck contained an impressive collection of treasures, including 200,000 artifacts, gold and silver, and even canons. It remains the only authenticated discovery of its kind in the world and was valued at $400 million.
From 2007 to 2014, Clifford’s discovery was showcased in a traveling exhibit across the United States. Today, visitors can view the loot at the Whydah Pirate Museum in West Yarmouth, Massachusetts.
In 1503, the renowned Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama encountered an unfortunate incident during his voyage from India to Europe. His ship, the Esmeralda, was lost to a severe storm. Interestingly, da Gama’s uncle was at the helm of the vessel in question. The age-old saying “finders keepers” might have been put to the test if the ship and its cargo had been salvaged.
Back in 1998, a ship was found close to Oman, but only recently in 2017 did the excavation take place. The vessel contained navigational equipment from the Age of Discovery, which may not have monetary value like Spanish gold, but still carries great historical importance. Currently, an ongoing archaeological initiative is in progress. This ship is referred to as Antikythera.
Discovered in the Aegean Sea, a submerged ship that dates back 2,000 years was named after the Greek island Antikythera. The vessel’s history remains unknown, but its contents were priceless. Among its treasures were bronze and gold coins, as well as marble statues, which are estimated to be worth between $120 million to $160 million. It’s a find of a lifetime, and whoever discovered it gets to keep it.
Back in 1900, a group of sponge divers stumbled upon a sunken ship that held many treasures. Fast forward a century later, these treasures were extracted and are now proudly showcased at the National Archaeological Museum located in Athens, Greece.