The data on shipwrecks around the world indicates that over 3 million shipwreck treasures are sitting at the sea and ocean bed. The composition of the shipwrecks includes military, business, civilian wrecks among others. According to international maritime laws and regulations, all naval shipwrecks are under the jurisdiction of their respective governments while anything else is under international waters. Based on statistics, the number of shipwrecks explored or discovered hitherto represents less than 1% of the total shipwreck treasures across the world. At the current rate, it will take over 500 years to excavate the ocean wrecks which will be worth hundreds of billions of dollars. Shipwreck treasures are of great interest to underwater archaeologists, professional treasure hunters, and even amateur treasure hunters. Many companies around the world are engaged in shipwreck treasure salvage operations, along with many other individual treasure hunters such as Mel Fisher, E. Lee Spence, Robert F. Marx among others. This list explores the top ten most valuable shipwreck treasures ever found around the world.
Table of Contents
- Black Swan Project Treasures – $500 Million
- Atocha Motherlode Treasures – $450 Million
- Whydah Gally Treasures – $400 Million
- The SS Gairsoppa Treasures – $210 Million
- The Diamond Shipwreck Treasures – Still Being Valued
- Titanic Treasures – $190-200 Million
- SS Republic Treasures – $120-180 Million
- The Antikythera Treasures – $120-160 Million
- “Ship of Gold” Treasures – $100-150 Million
- Belitung Shipwreck (Tang shipwreck) Treasures – $90 Million
Black Swan Project Treasures – $500 Million
The “Black Swan Project” was the code name assigned by Odyssey Marine Exploration company in 2007 for the colossal shipwreck discovery in the Atlantic sea bed. The company is privately owned and specializes in marine treasure hunting, and find the largest ever found. Odyssey Marine Exploration Company harvested over 17 tons of silver coins, over 100,000 gold coins, valuable jewels, artifacts from several periods among other valuables. The company floundered the salvaged treasure to the united states, the identity of the ship, size, nationality, and site of the wreck remains a secret because the shipwreck was found in a location where many colonial-era shipwrecks occurred. The valuation of the wreck was worth $500 million.
The Spanish government filed the claim on the wreck claiming it was from a Spanish ship vessel Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes, that was sunk by the British Navy in 1804. The company landed a $500 million treasure in Gibraltar before flowing the loot to its headquarters in Florida America. The US federal court ordered Odyssey Marine Exploration to release the site of the wreck. After several litigations and legal battles, the court awarded Spain the shipwreck treasures, which were to be distributed to the museums across the country. The Spanish government paid Odyssey $500 million as a reward for their trouble to hunt the treasure.
Atocha Motherlode Treasures – $450 Million
The 1622 hurricane sunk many sea vessels including the Nuestra Señora de Atocha which is called the Atocha Motherlode. The wreck killed all people on board except two slaves and three sailors. The ship was transporting tons of copper, silver, ingots, jewels, gold, precious metals, among other artifacts when it sank in 1622 off the Florida Keys. The rescue the Spanish government dispatched five ships on a salvage mission of Atocha Motherlode, but the purpose was a complete fail thanks to more hurricanes and the deep sea. By the use of Indian slaves, the Spanish authorities recovered half of the treasures of Santa Margarita, one of the shipwrecks during the hurricane.
However, the Atocha Motherlode was never improved. The famous and notorious marine treasure hunter Mel Fisher discovered the Atocha and motherlode in 1985 after he spends more than 16 years of hunting for the wreck. The wreck treasures encompassed gold, copper, silver, emerald among other precious treasures worthy $450 million, which is less than half the value the treasures that Atocha sunk with. According to Mel Fisher’s company, Salvors Inc., they found many other shipwrecks treasures in the region including the Santa Margarita. Among other valuables of the Atocha yet to be found in the sterncastle the most valuable part of the Atocha, over 300 silver bars, ten bronze cannons among others.
Whydah Gally Treasures – $400 Million
The Whydah Gally was the ship build to serve several functions encompassing passengers, a slave ship, and cargo ship. The Whydah was captured by the greatest pirate in history Captain Samuel famously known as the “Black Sam” Bellamy on the return journey from the triangle trade. The capture was described as the flagship. After about three centuries into its disappearance, the shipwreck was discovered in 1984 by Barry Clifford and his crew of explorers. Whydah shipwreck find is the only authenticated golden age pirate shipwreck treasures ever found on earth. Among the treasure yielded from the wreck are over 200,000 artifacts such as cannons, silver and gold coins, gold jewelry, and the ships bell. A special selection of Whydah artifacts is displayed in the National Geography Society, and they are exhibited across the museums in the United States of America as the “Real Pirate” which as very popular.
The SS Gairsoppa Treasures – $210 Million
The British Treasury ship, SS Gairsoppa was sunk by the Nazi U boat. The vessel was running low on fuel in North Atlantic forcing her convoy to seek refuge in Ireland when the German U boat torpedoed and sunk her. The SS Gairsoppa was loaded with a cargo of silver over 7 million ounces which was approximated to be worth £600,000 during that time. Odyssey Marine Exploration won UK government department of transport exclusive salvage contract in 2010. The treasure hunting company carries all the risks involved but gets to keep 80% of all the treasures from the SS Gairsoppa wreck discovery.
In 2011, the company, Odyssey Marine, found the wreckage near the coast of Ireland after a two-month search. The discovery yielded 1218 ingots of the net weight of 48 tons which is just 43% of the total weight. The approximated value of the treasure was $210 million. The salvage process stopped due to the weather conditions in the region, and however, if all the wreckage is recovered, it would be the biggest shipwreck ever found.
The Diamond Shipwreck Treasures – Still Being Valued
It is one of the greatest shipwreck treasure discoveries in the world. The diamond shipwreck was from the 16th century, and it was a Portuguese trade ship named Bom Jesus. The ship was sailing from Lisbon in 1533 when the wreckage occurred near the coast of West Africa. The heavy storms were responsible for the sinking of the diamond ship. Sea Geologists working for De Beers is one of the biggest and oldest undersea diamond miners in the world, discovered the diamond shipwreck buried in the beach.
The team uncovered several ingots before opting to call in the archaeologists. Archaeologists characterized the Diamond Shipwreck “a lifetime find” because it was the biggest and oldest wrecks ever found off the coast of Africa. The content of the find encompasses over 22 tons of ingots, thousands of gold and silver coins traced back to King João III, over six cannons, swords, more than 50 elephant tusks, among other treasures. The archaeologists have not yet released the total worth of the find.
Titanic Treasures – $190-200 Million
The Titanic Treasures is one of the famous shipwrecks of all time because of the intensity and the scale of the tragedy. The RMS Titanic ship was a British passenger liner which was described as unsinkable. The wreck occurred in 1912 when the ship collided with an iceberg in the North Atlantic Ocean with over 1 500 passengers and crew-members on board. The ship was also carrying valuable artifacts, diamonds, gold, silver, and other valuable items worth approximately 300 million from high profile wealthy people. The Titanic Wreckage was discovered in 1985. There have been exhibitions of the Titanic shipwreck in museum around the country. Treasures excavated from Titanic treasures encompass porcelain dishes, many artifacts, gold and silver coins, among other valuables displayed at different areas across the world. The total worth of the treasures excavated from the wreck was between $190-200 million.
SS Republic Treasures – $120-180 Million
The SS Republic was among the ships that disappeared during the 1865 hurricane off the coast of Georgia on the root to New Orleans. The vessel was carrying around $400,000 in gold coins. The Odyssey Marine Exploration company salvages the SS republic ship after 230 years since its disappearance in 1865. The treasures recovered so far include more than 51,000 US gold and silver, over 14,000 artifacts in bottles, glasses, stoneware containers. The value of the shipwreck worth is approximated to around $180 million. An incredible thing happened one day into the excavation of the SS Republic shipwreck; a man filed a lawsuit claiming the company Odyssey Marine used his information to discover the wreck. The court, however, in 2014, judged in favor of Odyssey marine giving them full ownership of the shipwreck cargo.
The Antikythera Treasures – $120-160 Million
The shipwreck was approximated to have occurred around circa 65 BC, was discovered by Greek sponge fishermen in 1900 off southwestern Aegean island of Antikythera and northwest of Crete. The archaeological service of Greece sends the first expedition which salvaged 36 marble statutes of the mythological gods and heroes, brose statues of an athlete, scores of luxury items, several bronze sculptures, skeletal human remains among others. Interestingly, they discovered the fragments of the world’s first computer described as the Antikythera Mechanism.
The device composed of a series of gears mechanical systems used to encode the movement of planets, eclipse prediction, and star movements. Several other expeditions were sent in 1976 that yielded to the discovery of the fragments of the first computer mechanisms. Further expeditions were sent during the period between 2012 and 2014, recovering more artifacts, gold coins, high-quality glass artifacts, gold jewelry, bronze chairs among others. the total valuation of the Antikythera shipwreck treasures falls between the range of $120-160 million which is significantly high considering period the wreck occurred and when it was discovered.
“Ship of Gold” Treasures – $100-150 Million
The 1857 hurricane caused the SS central America ship famously known as the ship of gold to sink with 420 people on board. The SS Central America was transporting 15 tons of gold resulting in the 1857 Panic in the United States characterized by severe worldwide economic crisis. The wreck was discovered in 1988 using a theory called Bayesian search theory on the shipping route that Thompson calculated using all the consistent documented data on ship routes. The Columbus-America Discovery Group of Ohio discovered the ship of gold and excavated the wrecked treasure. Large amounts of gold were found in the form of gold coins, bullion, gold, artifacts, gold bars among others.
The treasure from the ship of gold excavation was approximated around $100-150 million. Over 39 insurance companies across the US surfaced with claims that they have a right in the vessel of gold treasures because of the claims they paid in the 19th century. This sparked a series of legal battles in court that ended with the Columbus-America Discovery Group of Ohio keeping 92% of the entire treasure in 1996. One of the gold ingots discovered was 36kg sold for $36 million, a record price during the period. Further, a gold bar from the wreck became an essential piece of currency fetching a whopping $8 million, a world record price at the time.
Belitung Shipwreck (Tang shipwreck) Treasures – $90 Million
The Arabian shipwreck occurred around 9th century AD, making Belitung shipwreck discovery a rare find ever. It was discovered in 1998 by fishermen off the Belitung island, Indonesia. The mystery behind the wreck is why the ship was far away from its expected route from China to Oman. It marks the first Arabian shipwreck to be discovered and excavated. The wreck revealed two fundamental insight to undersea archaeologists in the form of the shipwreck cargo and the ship’s hull. The Belitung wreck cargo encompassed over 60,000 pieces assortment of ceramic artifacts ever found which included: funeral urns, bowls, shiny silver boxes, spice jars, crystals, and inkwells. It also represents the largest single assortment of Tang Dynasty gold artifacts such as gold bowls ever found in a single location; hence, it was also called the Tang treasure. The estimated value of the treasure was around $90 million.