The Most Valuable Shipwreck: The San Jose (part 2) by Bob "Frogfoot" Weller

This is the second part and the conclusion of the Tale of Shipwreck and Sunken Treasure of one of the most valuable treasure galleons to ever set sail and unfortunately sink to the bottom with all hands and the richest treasure ever to be lost at sea. This wreck is still out there and waiting for a brave adventurer and explorer to locate her and recover her vast wealth of treasure.

 
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The famous Spanish Treasure Galleon: The San Jose which sank in 1708 (part 2)

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Part Two: The Battle Continues

Once the San Jose was sunk, Admiral Wager turned his attention to the gobierno, the Santa Cruz. at 2:00 a.m. the next morning he came upon her, and in the dark he did not know which way the almiranta lay in the water. He fired his first broadside into the Santa Cruz's stern, which disabled her from making sail. He was to leeward at the time and made to get ahead of her because the wads of the almiranta's gunfire were dangerous against his sails. He was soon on the windward side of the Santa Cruz, and over 250 rounds were fired into her hull.San Jose Treasure Galleon, Bob Weller, Bradley Williamson

Attracted by the flashes of gunfire, the Kingston and the Portland joined in, and soon the gobierno was lying like "a log on the water". About this time the Vice Admiral, San Joachin, passed close by on an opposite tack and poured a broadside into Wager's ship. He responded with his own broadside, and the San Jaochin disappeared into the night. Wager hoped the Kingston and Portland would give chase, but they stayed close by the now disabled gobierno. Soon the Santa Cruz fired two cannon shot from her sterncastle, the signal for quarter, and the battle was over. What was left of the Santa Cruz was taken in tow, and a boarding party was put aboard. Two days later the prisoners, along with eleven survivors of the San Jose, were put ashore on Isla del Rosario.

The Kingston and the Portland then stood to the north-northeast in an attempt to engage the San Jaochin if they could find her. And they did, near the Bancos de Salmedina. They were able to fire a broadside at the almiranta, but the shallow of Salmedina made them tack away, and the almiranta made it safely to the port of Cartagena. During the battle the urca exchanged broadsides with Wager's warship, and in one Wager broadside of 24 cannon shot, one of the cannon on the urca's lower deck was disabled and her launch was damaged, as well as the forecastle stanchion and ladder. Barshot damaged the rigging, and the main topgallant came down. One cannon ball passed through the side of the urca and cut off a man's arm. The captain of the Nietto decided that when the capitana sank it should make itself scarce. Accompanied by the patache and several French vessels, they made course to the south-southwest. The following morning they anchored near the Canal de Baru (near Isla del Rosario).

The canal was too shallow for the urca to pass through, but the patache and the French vessels were able to make it through, and they sailed on to Cartagena. On Monday, the 11th of June, the urca tried to sail around the Islas de Baru, but the wind calmed before they could pass around the Island of Tesoro, so they returned to the entrance of the canal.

At midnight the following day they again tied, using an offshore breeze. They were still not able to clear Tesoro Island, and now they had three enemy sails bearing down on them from the north. It was decided to run the Nietto aground and burn her to keep the English from gaining anything from her cargo. The urca was sailed into the shallows on the north side of Isla Grande where the crew and passengers were seen safely ashore before the ship was set afire. A mine was placed in her hold near the gunpowder magazine. As the English approached in a small boat to see if they could put out the fire that now raged from stem to stern, the urca blew up in a fireball that was seen on board Wager's ship ten miles away.

And so the battle ended. Wager was disappointed that so large a prize as the gobierno had so little treasure on board. He was angered that his ships Portland and Kingston allowed the almiranta, with almost five million pesos in gold on board, to escape into Cartagena's harbor. He had ordered them to go after her, but they found reasons not to. He had both captains court-martialed in Port Royal. The San Jose sits on the bottom possibly in as much as 1,400 feet of water, with 64 bronze cannon decorating her ballast pile...and adorned with over seven million pesos in gold. The search goes on, and possibly the Columbus-America Discovery Group, finders of the Central America, may be the next successful salvors.

Bob "Frogfoot" Weller

(Thanks to Jack Haskins for his research work on the San Jose.)

 

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