Treasure hunters rejoice. There is still gold in them there hills, and there are still ancient hoards to seek out on the bottom of the vast seas.
Here are 10 recent, very lucky discoveries of sunken treasure.
Ship of Gold – SS Central America
- Lost: 1857
- Found: 1988
- Value: $50 Million
On 3 September 1857, 477 passengers and over 100 crew members set sail for New York City from the shores of Panama in the grand and iconic SS Central America – more popularly known as the Ship of Gold!
As the name suggests, the ship was loaded with over 10 short tons of gold. Unfortunately, the people on board never made it to their destination because only 5 days after starting what turned out to be its final voyage, on 9 September 1857, the ship met a deadly hurricane near the coast of Carolinas.
After braving the storm for a long time, the ship of gold finally surrendered to the tremendous waves and stormy winds, settling at the bottom of the ocean and taking tons of gold along with itself.
For over 150 years, one of the world’s richest treasures lays lost in the dark and endless depths of Atlantic until it was discovered in 1988 by The Columbus-America Discovery Group. They were astonished to find the priceless treasure that included gold coins, nuggets, ingots, and a lot of other precious ornaments!
Treasure of the S.S. Republic
- Lost: 1863
- Found: 2003
- Value: $120 – $180 million
Also known as Tennessee, the S.S. Republic was a steamship that met a deadly hurricane off the coast of Georgia and sank into the depths of the ocean while transporting passengers from New York to New Orleans.
Although crew and passengers on board managed to escape the sinking ship, a great fortune of gold and silver coins sank to the Atlantic seabed. Nearly 140 years later, in 2003, the shipwreck site of S.S. Republic was discovered by Odyssey Marine Exploration.
However, the archaeological excavation of this lost treasure was not an easy one and required robotic assistance and cutting-edge technology. Nonetheless, the amount of gold and silver found among the remains was mind-boggling and is estimated to be around $120-180 million.
Today, the treasures and artifacts recovered from the shipwreck site of the S.S Republic are on display in museums all around the world. In fact, some items are even available for collectors!
Blackbeard’s Queen Anne’s Revenge
- Lost: 1718
- Found: 1996
- Value: Priceless Historically
Nothing intrigues the imagination like the stories of gnarly pirates with ships full of looted treasure. Therefore, it does not come as a surprise that Blackbeard’s Queen Anne’s Revenge is one of the most famous sunken ships.
For those who don’t know, Blackbeard has been recorded as one of the most notorious pirates in history. In 1717, he captured a ship called Concord and named it Queen Anne’s Revenge.
The ship quickly became famous for the atrocities carried out on it. However, its glory was short lived, and only one year later, in 1718, the journey of Queen Anne’s Revenge came to a disatourous end when it collided with a sandbar and sank to the bottom of the ocean near North Carolina.
The ship was lost, but it was never forgotten. After lying on the dark ocean bed for more than a century, some remains from the shipwreck were discovered in 1996.
After 15 years of continuous research and discoveries, it was finally confirmed in 2011 that the remains indeed belonged to the infamous Queen Anne’s Revenge.
There is no monetary value associated with this particular sunken treasure, but the historical value is priceless. And can you imagine the bragging rights if you discovered Blackbeard’s Frigging Pirate Ship! You wouldn’t have to pay for another beer as long as you lived.
The “Treasures” of Blackbeard’s Queen Anne’s Revenge included many attractive artifacts, cannons, weapons, a huge anchor, and even a sword that supposedly belonged to Blackbeard himself!
If this sounds like something you’d want to see, you may be interested in knowing that the treasures found on the ship are on display in North Carolina’s Maritime Museum.
- Lost: 1717
- Found: 1984
- Value: $400 million
Built as a slave ship, Whydah Gally is another famous pirate ship that met a dreadful end. The colossal 100-foot ship that weighed more 300 tons was captured by a famous pirate called Captain Samuel Bellamy or Black Sam.
Despite being strong and sturdy, the ship broke down when a huge sea storm hit it in 1717. According to the legend, the great pirate and his crew didn’t abandon the ship and sank into the ocean along with valuable treasures.
It wasn’t until 1984 that the treasures of Whydah Gally once again saw the light of day after being discovered by a treasure hunter, Barry Clifford.
The sunken treasure of Whydah Gally was valued at over $400 million, and it took Clifford about 30 years to recover all of it.
Today, sponsored by the National Geographic Society, the precious artifacts and riches found on the Whydah Gally are exhibited all around the United States for all to see.
The San José
- Lost: 1708
- Found: 2015
- Value: 17 Billion Dollars
Known as the Holy Grail of sunken ships, the San Jose was discovered more than 300 years after it last saw the light of the day. Launched in 1698, the grand ship was part of the Spanish treasure fleet.
For years, it was used for transporting gold, jewels, and other riches to Spain. However, shipping such treasures was not an easy job and in 1708, the San Jose was attacked. It came under fire and sank into the ocean, taking an invaluable stash of emeralds, diamonds, silver and other precious stones with it.
Years later, it was discovered in Colombian waters in 2015 by a group of salvagers. The Spanish ship is rumored to have riches worth more than $17 billion!
Unfortunately, most of the treasure remains at the bottom of the sea because the rightful owner of the treasures is disputed and, as shocking as it might be, the United Nations cultural agency wants the treasure to stay right where it is – at least for now!
The British Treasury Ship or The SS Gairsoppa
- Lost: 1941
- Found: 2011
- Value: $210 million
The British Treasury Ship, also known as The S.S. Gairsoppa, was a steamship built in 1919. It was used in World War II and sunk after getting hit by a German torpedo in 1941, near the coast of Ireland.
At the time it sank, the ship was bulging with about 7,000,000 ounces of silver in form of numerous silver bars.
After a number of unsuccessful expeditions to locate the ship, In 2011, its remains were discovered by an American company, called Odyssey Marine Exploration, near the coast of Ireland.
In 2012, the company reported having found silver ingots weighing around 1,400,000 ounces. After searching for another year, in 2013, the company reported having discovered another 61 tons of silver which were valued at more than $210 million.
Who knows what other riches the British Treasury Ship may have in store for us!
1715 Treasure Fleet – The Treasure That Keeps On Giving
- Lost: 1715
- Found: Various
- Value: $400 Million
Finding a single ship filled with treasure is crazy enough. Now imagine what it would be like to discover an entire fleet of sunken treasure ships!
The wrecks of the 1715 Spanish treasure fleet has been offering up gold since the original discovery back in 1965 by the famous Treasure Hunter Kip Wagner. Since then dozens of finds have been made worth millions of dollars.
The ships were part of the Spanish Treasure Fleet that was used for transporting goods and valuables like wood, agricultural products, spices, tobacco, sugar, silk, pearls, gems, and a large number of expensive metals including silver and gold to the Spanish mainland from the overseas Spanish Empire.
In 1715, the treasure fleet consisting of twelve ships left Havana at 2 a.m. and came face to face with a hurricane near Florida. 11 of the 12 ships sank to the bottom of the ocean along with a huge amount of precious artifacts.
300 years later, the valuable treasure from the 1715 Treasure Fleet still remains in the sea. In fact, valuable coins from the shipwreck have been washing around the Floridian cost for years now!
According to an estimate, more than half of the $400 million worth of riches from the sunken treasure fleets is still lying around in the ocean, waiting to be discovered!
Nuestra Senora de Atocha
- Lost: 1622
- Found: 1985
- Value: $450 Million
Indiana chicken farmer Mel Fisher quit chicken farming for good after finding the Spanish galleon Nuestra Senora de Atocha at the bottom of the sea.
It took him 16 and a half years to scour the Caribbean until he finally found the legendary ship, which sunk when it hit rocks in 1622.
The long search paid off, with Fisher recovering 40 tons of gold, silver and Colombian emeralds worth a combined $450 million. This treasure hunt, however, isn’t over.
Half the Atocha’s riches are still believed to be beneath the sea, including most of the rare Muzo emeralds that would have been stored in the captain’s cabin in the sterncastle, a part of the ship that remains lost.
The Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes (A.K.A Black Swan)
- Lost: 1804
- Found: 2007
- Value: $500 Million
Spanish galleon Nuestra Senora de la Mercedes was filled with more than 500,000 pieces of gold and silver, mined and minted in South America, when a cannonball flew over the bow of her sister ship, the Medea.
At the time, the Mercedes, the Medea and two other Spanish ships were two months into their journey across the Atlantic and just a day away from landing at Cadiz. But the British had other ideas.
The Spanish fired back and so began the Battle of Cape Santa Maria, a decisive British victory that would lead to the Mercedes sinking. Two hundred years later, publicly traded treasure hunting company Odyssey Marine Exploration found the wreck at the bottom of the sea.
The bounty? Hundreds of millions of dollars in gold and silver coins, pulled from the bottom of the ocean at a cost of more than $2 million.
However, it was a haul that Odyssey’s shareholders would not get to keep. In June 2009, a federal court ordered the company to send the treasure to its rightful owner: the Spanish.
- Lost: 1822
- Found: 2009
- Value: 3 Billion Dollars (Estimated)
Putzing around on the internet pays off. At least it might for Nathan Smith, a Los Angeles musician who found a shipwreck using Google Earth. Smith was clicking and scrolling in the skies above south Texas when the outline of a ship caught his eye.
He figured it must be the legendary lost barkentine of Barkentine Creek, a ship loaded with gold and silver and bound from Mexico to Spain when it was blown inland by a hurricane in 1822.
There was just one little problem: the ship sits on private property and the landowners won’t have just any young internet addict showing up and digging up their land.
Smith and the landowners are currently involved in a protracted court battle, with the state even making a claim on what may be buried in the bones of the ship. Until the legal dust settles, nobody will know.
- Lost: 14th Century BC
- Found: 1982
- Value: Priceless (From a Historical Standpoint)
In 1982, local sponge diver Mehmed Cakir was searching out his quarry in the waters southeast of Kas, Turkey when he came across a number of odd objects he described as “metal biscuits with ears.”
Cakir didn’t know it at the time, but what he was describing were ancient copper “oxhide” ingots, and what he had discovered is one of the most historically significant shipwrecks ever found.
Much has been written about the Uluburun Shipwreck, which included elephant ivory, hippo teeth, gold jewelry, swords, daggers and spearheads, among hundreds of fascinating objects from a bygone age.
In total, the ship was carrying cargo that originated from 9 or 10 unique cultures, shedding light on the Bronze Age and proving that treasure is valuable for more than just its bling.
There’s Still More Treasure Under The Sea
These are just some of the more famous sunken treasures that were unearthed. The treasure is real, and there’s plenty more up there waiting to be found. So grab your favorite metal detector and go find some gold!