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6 min read

The Sunken Treasures Still Waiting to be Found


  • On the 19th of September, it’s International Talk Like a Pirate Day;
  • Looking for treasure? there are an estimated three million undiscovered shipwrecks;
  • We’ve detailed four of the most valuable – with billions of pounds just waiting there
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Sunken treasures to be found

The world is full of unusual holidays/special occasions and, on the 19th of September, perhaps one of the strangest comes around – International Talk Like a Pirate Day. On this day, it’s customary to dress like one of those buccaneers, adopt pirate lingo, and raise money for charity in the process.

Worth noting this day is to commemorate the romanticised ‘Jack Sparrow’ pirates, not the actual plundering, stealing, and fighting criminals.

We told you it was a strange occasion.

However, this period got us thinking about all the gold doubloons still laying unclaimed across the ocean. After all, how much is just sitting there beneath the waves?

The sunken treasures waiting for explorers

It’s estimated there are around three million undiscovered shipwrecks around the world. Some are being searched for right now – and a few of those might even contain riches. Here are four of these wrecks just waiting to be discovered:

An anchor and other ocean treasures.

The Merchant Royal

An anchor and other ocean treasures.

In 1641, the Merchant Royal sank off the coast of Cornwall due to bad weather. Although the anchor was discovered in 2019, the main shipwreck has never been discovered. At the time the ship went down, it was estimated to be carrying 100,000 pounds of gold. In today’s money, you can expect the cargo to be worth about £1bn.

The Santa Maria

The Santa Maria was one of the ships which sailed with Christopher Columbus’ fleet on his way to – what is now – America. Although all arrived in port, the Santa Maria eventually set off on a search for valuables such as gold and spices.

According to the story, on Christmas Eve 1492, the cabin boy was put in charge of steering the ship. We can only assume the helmsman was celebrating the occasion. As you might have guessed, the Santa Maria ran aground on Haiti – resulting in the vessel being abandoned. Consequently, no-one knows the current location of the ship or its cargo.

The Flor de la Mar

A large Portuguese vessel, the Flor de la Mar made multiple trips across the Indian Ocean. However, after spending almost a decade sailing from one destination to the other, the vessel needed repairs. In the early 1500s, the ship was sent to reinforce a Portuguese campaign – despite being deemed unsafe at the time.

Perhaps not too surprisingly, the ship sank after being caught in a storm. Reportedly though, she went down with about £2bn worth of treasure on board.

Las Cinco Chagas

Las Cinco Chagas sank in 1594 after a conflict with British privateers. Going down near Portugal, the ship was returning home following an expedition to India – reportedly carrying precious stones and diamonds.

The cargo is currently estimated to be worth more than half a billion pounds.

What happens if I find a sunken treasure?

An old treasure map.

Although you might think the rules surrounding ‘finders keepers’ apply to a sunken treasure ship, this is unfortunately not true. Under salvage law, you must at least try to return the treasures to their rightful owner. As a result, upon discovery, you’d need to notify the government which controlled those waters.

Before you consider just not telling anyone, the IMO states dishonest conduct could invalidate any claim to the treasures.

Although you may be entitled to a percentage of the find in this case, a brighter future awaits you in international waters. If no one claims ownership of the sunken vessel, you could be allowed to take as much treasure as you can carry.

Further reading