The Most Valuable Shipwrecks Ever Discovered

5. SS Gairsoppa

The SS Gairsoppa was a British merchant ship that was pressed into service during the Second World War. The Gairsoppa was a part of a number of war-related convoys before a German u-boat fired a torpedo and sank her in 1941, killing all 85 of her crew. While returning from India, the ship was filled with silver ingots meant to be delivered to the Royal mint. Then, in 2011, the Odyssey Marine Expedition team identified the wreck site and worked with the British government to begin excavation. By 2013, over 61 tons of silver had been recovered worth an estimated $210 million.

Image Source: UK Government/Wikimedia Commons

4. Whydah Gally

The Whydah Gally was originally a British fully-rigged ship. However, it was captured by the pirate Captain Samuel “Black Sam” Bellamy on the return leg of its maiden voyage. Now under his control, Bellamy sailed the Whydah up and down the coast of the Americas, capturing other ships and treasure along the way. It was caught in a nasty storm off the coast of Cape Cod and wrecked. The Whydah was finally discovered in 1984 by Barry Clifford, and is the only Golden Age pirate shipwreck ever discovered. Over 200,000 artifacts were discovered, including gold coins, silver, cannons and the ship’s bell, totaling over $200 million in value.

Image Source: Theodore Scott/Wikimedia Commons

3. Nuestra Señora de Atocha

This Spanish treasure galleon was the most famous ship lost in a hurricane off the coast of the Florida Keys in 1622. The Nuestra Señora de Atocha was heavily laden with copper, silver, gold, gems and indigo from Colombia, Panama and Cuba, and was sailing toward for Spain. The wreck was famously found by an American, Mel Fisher, and his commercial treasure hunting operation in 1985. After a lengthy court battle with the state of Florida, Mel Fisher and his team were awarded the entire wreck site. To date, an estimated $450 million of gold, silver, emeralds and artifacts have been recovered.

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2. Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes

This Spanish frigate was famously attacked by the British navy while the two countries were ostensibly at peace. After the British navy demanded that the Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes return to port for inspection, the Mercedes refused and a single shot from the British fleet connected with the ship’s magazine and exploded. At the time, the ship was sailing from Uruguay to Spain, carrying gold, silver and spices. This wreck was also discovered by the Odyssey Marine Expedition team in 2007 and nicknamed the site “Black Swan.” The Odyssey recovered almost 500,000 gold and silver coins that it transported back to the United States. After a lengthy court battle, the entire treasure was returned to the Spanish government and is worth an estimated $500 million.

Image Source: Benjamín Núñez González/Wikimedia Commons

1. Spanish galleon San José

Best known as the “Holy Grail” of shipwrecks, the three-masted Spanish galleon was launched in 1698 and was lost in a battle off the coast of Cartagena, Colombia in 1708. The San José was fully laden with gold, silver, emeralds and jewelry worth an estimated $17 billion. In 2015, the ship was successfully located by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. As of July 2017, a salvage operation had started under the supervision of the Colombian government. Currently, the majority of this treasure remains in the sea, and the Colombian government considers its exact location to be a state secret.

Image Source: Samuel Scott/Wikimedia Commons