5. The Diamond Shipwreck
This shipwreck is believed to be the remains of a Portuguese ship, the Bom Jesus, which went under during a journey from Portugal to India in the mid sixteenth century. It is believed that the ship ran afoul of a bad storm off the coast of West Africa during its journey, and was found in 2008 off the coast of Namibia.
The full scope of the treasure found in the wreckage is not yet fully known, but thus far, the following artifacts and treasures have been recovered:
- Tons of metal ingots
- Massive amounts of gold coins
- 50+ elephant tusks
- Weapons dating back to King Joao III
The total worth of this shipwreck is still being calculated, though it is projected to be one of the most valuable shipwrecks discovered in modern times.
4. The SS Gairsoppa Shipwreck
The SS Gairsoppa was a British steam vessel meant for overseas mercantile trade. Originally built in 1919, this ship was drafted into the British Navy during World War II and was sunk by a German U-boat in 1941 while it was on its way to refuel in Ireland. 85 lives were lost with the sinking and serious salvage efforts were not fully mounted until 2011.
More than 61 tons of silver bullion were found in the wreckage (though it is believed that there were more than 200 tons on the ship at the time of its sinking). Today, the wreck is believed to be worth more than $210 million.
3. The Whydah Gally Shipwreck
This passenger, cargo, and slave ship was on its return trip when it was captured by pirates and made the flagship of Captain Samuel “Black Sam” Bellamy. In 1717, Black Sam and his crew aboard the Whydah Gally were caught in a vicious storm along the coast of North America and the ship was wrecked with only nine survivors (seven of which were prisoners of the pirate ship).
It took more than a century for the wreck to be rediscovered, at which point the ship’s more than 200,000 artifacts were uncovered. In addition to a great deal of silver, the fibula bone of an 8 or 11 year old child was discovered, which proved an old story about Black Sam’s youngest pirate crew mate, an 11 year old boy named John King. The discovery of the the Whydah Gally is the only “Golden Age” pirate shipwreck to ever be found and authenticated beyond a doubt. Today, the wreck is worth around $400 million.
2. The Atocha Motherlode
The Atocha Motherlode refers to the Nuestra Senora de Atocha which was one of a group of vessels that was sunk off the coast of the Florida Keys during a hurricane in 1622. The Atocha itself has been packed with trade goods it had gathered from Cartagena, Porto Bello, New Granada, and Havana and was on its way back to Spain with the haul. The goods on the ship included:
- Precious gemstones
The Spanish crown attempted to recover the wreckage and its precious cargo, but with no luck, and the resulting blow to the country’s financial stability severely weakened Spain as a western empire. Parts of the shipwreck were discovered in 1980, but it was not until 2011 that the full scope of the treasures aboard the Atocha was fully realized (though much of the treasure has still not been recovered). Today, the shipwreck is believed to be worth around $450 million.
1. The Black Swan Project
A second Spanish frigate, the Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes, sunk off the coast of Portugal sometime around 1804 and is currently in the process of a recovery project run by the Odyssey Marine Exploration company. The ship itself was sunk during a battle between Spanish and British forces which saw the death of 250 Spanish crewmen.
The recovery project saw results in 2007 with the recovery of 17 tons of precious coins, and it was at that time that rumors began to grow and questions arise about the nature of the wreck. Around this time, the Spanish government claimed that the shipwreck was likely the Mercedes and they sued the Odyssey Marine Exploration company for the find. After years of legal proceedings, the US court system eventually ruled in favor of Spain and the treasures recovered from the ship were flown to Spain in 2012. The coins and other treasure discovered were distributed amongst museums in Spain shortly thereafter.
The “Black Swan Project” remains one of the most valuable shipwrecks found to date, with an overall estimated worth of more than $500 million.