Have you ever wondered what’s the largest treasures found in the ocean?
If you have, you don’t have to look far to find it.
I’ve done you guys the favour of compiling a list of 12 largest treasures. In each case, I will explain their backstory, the type of treasure found, the date of discovery and estimated value. Also, I will provide miscellaneous facts on the history of each shipwreck.
1). Atocha Motherlode
Year of discovery: 1969 to 1985.
Type of treasure: Gold, silver, copper and emeralds.
Location: Florida, Keys West.
Value: $400 million
How did it unfold?
On September 4, 1622, the Atocha Motherlode or Nuestra Senora de Atocha a group of Spanish fleets left Havana, bounded for Spain.
During their voyage, the 28-strong fleets got hit by a hurricane near Florida. Eight ships sank to the ocean floor, resulting in 265 people losing their lives, and saving ONLY 5 people.
A month later, another hurricane the fleet, although there is no record of that event.
How was it found?
A team of enthusiasts’ treasure hunters led by Mel Fisher and his family went searching for Atocha Motherlode. It took them 16 years to find the main treasure pile from the period 1969 to 1985.
In the beginning, Mel Fisher found three silver bars here and five bronze canons in the first six years of the hunt.
Then, the discovery of its sister’s ship, the Santa Margarita in 1980. It was an important piece of the jigsaw to finding the ‘motherlode’ in 1985. The estimation value is around $450m.
Here are a few facts relating to the findings of the Atocha Motherlode:
1). The findings weren’t without tragedy, one of Mel Fisher’s son was killed from their boat capsizing.
2). It led to reforms in the laws governing shipwrecks and salvage. Congress passed the Abandoned Shipwreck Act in 1987, which gave states the rights to shipwrecks located within three miles of the coastline.
3). Mel Fisher came on “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson” after discovering the treasure. Mel wore a heavy gold chain on the show, which auctioneer estimate to be worth $90,000 to $120,000.
2). Ship of Gold (SS Central America)
Year of discovery: 1988
Type of treasure: Gold
Location: Coast of the Carolinas.
Value: $300 million to $500 million, depending on the current gold price.
How did it unfold?
The SS Central America or known as the ‘Ship of Gold’ is an 85 metres long streamer. It was travelling from Panama to New York in 1857. There was 550 passengers and crew on board, along with 14 tons of gold worth $300 million or $500 million (at $1,500 per oz).
The SS Central America met their demise by a hurricane near the Carolinas coast.
How was it found?
The Columbus-America Discovery Group, led by treasure hunter Tommy Gregory Thompson made the discovery in 1988. It had $12 million from investors funding the expedition.
Here are a few facts relating to the findings of the Ship of Gold (SS Central America):
1). Tommy Gregory Thompson wants to keep the treasure to himself by setting-up an offshore account. He pretends to find pieces of treasure, here and there, nothing of significant value. Unfortunately, his investors knew he was lying and sued him in court.
2). The sinking of SS Central America contributes to the Panic of 1857. Because the New York financial institutions were waiting for the gold to steady market confidences.
3). The captain was a war hero during the Mexican-American war, his name was commander William Lewis Herndon.
3). The ‘San Jose’, the Holy grail of shipwrecks
Year of discovery: 2015
Type of treasure: Gold
Location: Coast of Columbia
Value: $17 billion
How did it unfold?
The ‘San Jose’ or the holy grail of shipwrecks was heading towards Spain. Along the way, it came across a group of British Battalions. It led to a naval confrontation and battle, resulting in the sinking of San Jose near the coast of Columbia. Total loss of lives was 600.
How was it found?
On 27 November 2015, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution found the ‘San Jose.’ Yes, scientists, not treasure hunters made the discovery! They were surveying off the coast of Columbia. The finder is a robotic submarine called the REMUS 6000.
A few facts relating to the San José
When you hit the jackpot, a lot of interested parties want a piece of the pie.
Actually, there were previous claims of the location of the ‘San Jose’ in the 1980s. Made by a consortium called ‘Sea Search Armada’ (SSA). It’s lead the Columbian government refusals to grant permission for exploration.
Spain believes the treasure belongs to them because the ship was bound for Spain.
The treasure still sits on the ocean bed, until a settlement reaches its conclusion.
4). Black Swan Project
Year of discovery: 2007
Type of treasure: Silver coins, gold coins, artifacts and jewels.
Location: Atlantic Ocean
Value: $500 million
The Mystery of the Black Swan
There is a lot of mystery surrounds the findings of this underwater treasure.
First, people thought it belongs to a British ship, the Merchant Royal of 1641. After the discovery in 2007 by Odyssey Marine Exploration, Spain took the company to court. It says the treasure was from the Senora de las Mercedes, which sank in 1804 by the British.
Five years later, Spain won the court case. It dispatched two C-130 Hercules planes to deliver the treasure back. Inside, it was carrying 17 tons of silver and hundreds of gold coins.
5). Costa Concordia
Year of discovery: 2012
Type of treasure: Valuables from 4,000 people.
Location: Coast of Italy
Value: Anywhere between $500 million to $1 billion.
How did it unfold?
On 13th January 2012, the Costa Concordia hit a rock causing the ship to sink. Over 4,200 people were aboard the ship that killed 32 people.
The ship captain, Francesco Schettino left the cruise liner prematurely, leaving behind some of the passengers.
Were there valuables and treasures left behind?
People that left the ship also left behind valuables. These could be worth a lot of money and the total salvage value is unknown.
Costa Cruises offer compensation to each passenger worth 11,000 Euros, a total of 33 m Euros. 65% of the passengers took the offer with the rest holding out for more.
Several facts about the Costa Concordia disaster:
-The ship was carrying 1,023 crew members and 3,206 passengers on board.
-Although unclear, the disaster was down to a language barrier between the Italian and the Indonesian helmsman.
-All the crew members left safely, while knowingly leaving behind 300 passengers on the sinking vessel.
-It took more than two years to scrap the ship.
Year of discovery: 1985
Type of treasure: Artifacts, gold, diamonds, silver and more.
Location: Coast of Newfoundland.
How did it unfold?
The famous ship, RMS Titanic or known as the ‘unsinkable’ became sinkable after hitting an iceberg. It cost the lives of more than 1,500 people lost their lives and was famously depicted in the movie, Titanic.
Treasure of the Titanic
Some treasure hunter took part in trying to salvage valuables found inside the Titanic. Ever since its discovery in 1985, treasure-hunters found $200 million worth of diamonds, gold, silver and artifacts.
Here are a few interesting facts we didn’t know about the sinking of the Titanic:
1). The size of the iceberg is 100 feet tall. Despite its size, the crew didn’t see it in time to avert disaster. In fact, 37 seconds elapsed between seeing the iceberg and the collision.
2). 100,000 people saw the unveiling of the Titanic on 31st May 1911.
3). Only 16 wooden lifeboats and four collapsible boats were on deck, in case of disaster. The total capacity is 1,178 people, less than a third of the people arriving on the Titanic.
4). The movie, Titanic grossed over $2 billion worldwide and won 11 Oscars.
5). Millvina Dean was two months old and is the last surviving passenger. She died in 2009 at the age of 97.
7). The Antikythera Treasures
Year of discovery: 1900
Type of treasure: Statues
Location: Aegean Sea, near Greece
What’s in the ship?
It is a Roman ship dating back to the first or second century B.C. The wreck contains Greek coins, statues and other artifacts dating back to the fourth century B.C.
The statues were valuable because it includes images of Ulysses, Diomedes, Hercules, Apollo and Hermes.
Captain Dimitrios Kondos and his crew were sailing en route to the fishing grounds off North Africa. They stopped at a Greek island called Antikythera to wait out the harsh weather. While there, the crew began diving off the island coast and Captain Kondos picked up a statue. That’s when they the discovery.
The Antikythera Mechanism
Apart from the treasured statues, there was a fascinating object, which experts believed to be the oldest analog computer. It is known as the Antikythera Mechanism.
No one knows for definite who were the inventor/inventors. Experts speculate it could have been by Hipparchus, the creator of trigonometry. Because Cicero, a Roman stateman mentions a planetary device made by Posidonius.
Posidonius was the person who took over Hipparchus’s school on Rhodes after his death.
What can it do? The Antikythera mechanism can read the lunar calendar, as well as tracking the seasons and ancient festivals like the Olympics. Here’s a reproduction image of the mechanism:
The two dials on the machine would rotate to show both lunar and solar eclipses. It could figure out the Moon’s period at a given time and model its elliptical orbit.
8). SS Gairsoppa
Year of discovery: 2011.
Type of treasure: Silver
The SS Gairsoppa was returning from India to Britain with a cargo of silver ingots. It was low on coal, while in a heavy storm. The captain changed course to Galway harbour. Unfortunately, they encountered a German plane circling their ship. Next thing they know, the ship got torpedoed by a German submarine, U-101. The incident caused the loss of 85 lives during World War 2 in 1941.
On 2011, the Odyssey Marine saw the location of the shipwreck after two months of searching. It was sitting on the seafloor at a depth of over 4,000 meters deep. Scavengers found 61 tons of silver worth around £137 million.
Some useful facts about the SS Gairsoppa:
1). Although Odyssey Marine manages to recover 61 tons of silver, experts believe the SS Gairsoppa was carrying a total of 110 tons.
2). The SS Gairsoppa left Calcutta (Kolkata), India on 5 December 1940 and sank on 17th February 1941. That’s mean it took more than 70 days to arrive back to Britain.
3). Apart from the silver bars, it was carrying large quantities of tea leaves for 65% of the British’s population to drink one cup of tea. Also, it was carrying 700 letters on board.
9). Whydah Gally
Year of discovery: 1984.
Type of treasure: 200,000 items made up of artefacts, silver, gold and canons.
Location: Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
Value: $400 million.
The Whydah Gally is a slave ship sailing between Cuba and Hispaniola when pirates attack. Their leader is ‘Black Sam’ Bellamy, who took the ship with little resistance. It became their flagship.
While pirating and stealing to a big fortune, the pirates met their match with Mother Nature. Gale force winds pummelled the ships near Massachusetts. The Whydah sank killing 144 people on board.
In 1984, an archaeologist explorer, Barry Clifford the Whydah off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The ship was buried under 5 feet of sand. On it, they discovered over 200,000 pieces of treasure. But the most important came a year later, it was the ship’s bell with an inscription “The Whydah Gally 1716.”
Other facts about the ‘Whydah’ includes:
1). The pirates used “The Whydah” to commit 54 ship raids around coastal areas of America and the Caribbean. They stole $120 million worth of treasure (in today’s money).
2). The pirate leader, Bellamy is known as the ‘Prince of Pirates’ because of his gentle but stern nature. To steal without committing too much violence.
3). There is a museum named after the ship called the Whydah Pirate Museum. You can see 20,000 artifacts from the shipwreck yourself. It’s in Provincetown, Massachusetts and tickets cost $20.
10). Pearl of Lao Tzu
Year of discovery: 1934
Type of treasure: Pearl
Location: Palawan in the Philippines
Value: $35 Million
Accounts of the pearl’s origin are unknown. The size of the pearl is around 9.45 inches in diameter and weighs 6.4 kg or 14.2 lbs.
An American named Wilburn Dowell Cobb wanted to buy the pearl from a tribal chief in the Philippines in 1934. However, the chief being Muslim considered the pearl sacred and didn’t want to sell it.
Faith has its ways when the chief’s son fell ill after contracting malaria. Cobb saved him and he was given the pearl, as a token of gratitude.
It remains in Cobb possession until his death in 1979.
Cobb’s estate went to auction and the pearl was bought by Peter Hoffman and Victor Barbish for $200,000.
Today, experts valued the pearl at $35m.
There is a high probability the pearl of Lao Tzu could fetch much less than $35m because of the second-largest pearl went unsold in 2009. It is the same kind as the Lao Tzu but weigh five pounds. The auction price is between $300,000 and $400,000, nobody bid for it.
11). Belitung Shipwreck
Year of discovery: 1998
Type of treasure: Changsha ware and White-ware, manufactured in the Ding kilns
Location: Belitung Island, Indonesia
Value: $90 million
The Belitung is an Arabian dhow that sank en route to Arabia. It was 18 metres long.
Fishermen found the wreckage in 1998 on the Gelasa Strait. Then the Indonesian government bought the site from them.
In the wreck, it was all bowls ‘wares’, and there are three types:
1). Changsha ware makes up the majority of the wares and was made in Changsha.
2). White-ware, which was made in Ding County, Hebei Province.
3). Yue Ware bowls were made in Zhejiang Province.
How did they know the ‘wares’ origin?
One of the Changsha bowls bears an inscription that says, “16th day of the seventh month of the second year of the Baoli reign”, or 826 AD.
12). The World Ocean
Year of discovery: n/a.
Type of treasure: Gold.
Location: The Earth’s ocean.
Value: $830 trillion.
Experts believe there is 20 million tons of gold in the Earth’s ocean, using the gold spot price of $47 per gram. However, the Earth’s ocean contains (wait for it) 126 billion trillion litres of water. That means each litre of water contains 13 billionths of a gram of gold or less than $0.0000000047 of gold.
It means you would need to extract billions of litres of water to get $47 worth of gold.
Until we find a way to economically processed hundreds of trillions of seawaters, it isn’t feasible.
These are 11 of the most valuable treasures found in the ocean, while the ocean contains gold worth $800 trillion that we can’t economically extract. The things we learn about these lost treasures are:
1). It is one of the contributors to human greed;
2). Human ship engineering has flaws against the wild nature of Mother Nature;
3). And it can disrupt the financial market like the Panic of 1857.