The Most Valuable Treasure Ever Discovered In The Ocean

Everyone's inner pirate has probably wanted to get their hands on high-end booty at some point. Perhaps you've longed for John's silver or dreamed of clutching a black pearl of the non-Johnny Depp variety. If a pirate's life isn't quite for you, maybe you imagined life as a privateer like Captain Morgan, who rained pain on Spain while mainly getting paid with what he could plunder on behalf of England's king. Or if you'd rather not rumble like a rum mascot, you could just have a robotic submarine find some exquisite booty for you. That's how a group of modern treasure hunters uncovered the "holy grail" of shipwrecks in 2015, according to the BBC

Billions of dollars in booty

This jackpot of jackpots is the Spanish galleon San José. Sunk in 1708, the ship may contain the biggest sunken treasure on Earth, per History. Loaded with gold, silver, and jewels, the vessel carried as much as $17 billion worth of treasure. How did such precious cargo end up languishing in Davy Jones' locker for three centuries? It all started with an international tiff known as the War of the Spanish Succession. 

According to the UK National Army Museum, the conflict kicked off after King Charles II kicked the bucket in 1700. Charles had offered to bequeath his kingdom, which included territories in the Netherlands, Italy, and the Americas, to Philip of Anjou, the grandson of King Louis XIV. The thought of concentrating such immense power in the hands of France gave other European powers the heebie-jeebies. So England, Prussia, Holland, and the Holy Roman Empire backed the son of the Habsburg emperor, and hell broke loose in 1701.

The war of the treasure succession

Seven years into the War of the Spanish Succession, hell was still burning strong, but French and Spanish resources were burning up. So a Spanish admiral sent a literal boatload of riches in the form of the San Jose. The British attempted to intercept the vessel, and in the ensuing battle, the ship burst into flames and sank, extinguishing the hope that either side would claim the gold. In 2015, it was discovered near Cartagena, Colombia. However, the BBC reports that an American salvage company Sea Search Armada has tried to lay claim to the riches, insisting the the SSA found it first in the 1980s. Fittingly, the treasure is once more at the center of an international battle.