The Real Reason We Can't Find The Lost Treasure Of Shipwrecked Flor De La Mar

A treasure worth $2.5 billion is somewhere at the bottom of the ocean, hiding among the ruins of the Flor de la Mar, the sunken 16th century Portuguese ship (per Daily Beast). The carrack, built in 1502, was 118 feet long, 111 feet tall, and weighed 400 tons — a perfect vessel to handle massive amounts of gold and spice trade during Europe's age of exploration. The ship also was part of Portugal's vast armada, assisting in the state's conquests of Ormuz (today part of Iran), Goa ( in modern-day India), and Malacca (in modern Malaysia).

While returning from this final invasion, in 1511, the already battered Flor de la Mar was run onto a shoal by a storm. The wrecked ship sank (via What Culture), all while carrying the treasures of Malacca and a tribute to the Portuguese royal family from the King of Siam, according to Ancient Origins. Five men were rescued from the ship, including its infamous captain, Alfonso de Albuquerque, while 400 men died (via Ocean Treasures). But to this day, the ship — and its vast fortune — have never been found.

Is there any ship left?

There have been no shortage of search attempts for the wreck of the Flor de la Mar over the years. In fact, various 20th-century treasure hunters have claimed to have located the ship, including the American diver Bob Marx in 1992, according to Ancient Origins. None of these finds have been confirmed, and Portugal, Indonesia, and Malaysia have all claimed the rights to whatever treasure the lost carrack contains, according to the Daily Beast.

And there might not even be any treasure left to recover. Ocean Treasures recounts a tale from a purported eyewitness of the wreck, who said that the ship was only partially submerged in its final state and visible from shore. "Everything that water could not spoil was recovered" by locals, according to the account.

Considering the bad conditions of the ship at the time of its sinking, over time, rough seas probably destroyed what was left of the carrack's body, Ocean Treasures concludes. Whatever treasure was left inside either was raided by locals, washed ashore, or sunk to the bottom of this muddy area of the sea. By this theory, any treasure would be widely dispersed and nearly impossible to find — but that hasn't stopped people from trying.