Search launched for El Dorado treasure ‘worth billions’ which sunk in 1631 storm

A search is underway for billions of pounds of Spanish gold and silver that was sunk in a storm in 1631.

The ship, Our Lady of Juncal, was carrying between 120 and 150 tonnes of precious cargo when it capsized.

The Juncal was carrying tonnes of precious cargo which included valuable dyes, textiles, expensive wood and even chocolate.

But only now, 400 years later, the search for the treasure has begun.

Spanish and Mexican governments have announced that they will conduct a ten-day joint underwater archaeological search for the Juncal in May of this year.

Advances in technology have made treasure hunters adept at finding shipwrecks but they often involve disputes between the country that owned the ship and the country in whose waters it is found.

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In this case, six years ago Spain and Mexico signed an agreement to avoid falling out over more than 300 Spanish wrecks lying in Mexican waters.

Dr Ivan Negueruela, director of Spain’s National Museum of Underwater Archaeology, said the team were very confident they would find the wreck.

He said: “The cargo’s huge value, particularly the large number of silver and gold ingots which were intended to pay troops, meant officials had kept a detailed inventory.

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“The survivors were also questioned in-depth and their statements help us to reconstruct what happened with quite a high degree of accuracy, so we have a fairly good idea of where the ship sank.”

“The cargo is potentially so valuable that the two countries want to train their own underwater archaeologists rather than leave themselves at the mercy of pirates and treasure-hunting companies.”

The Juncal reportedly weighed 669 tonnes with three decks and four masts.

Strong gales and heavy iron and bronze cargo caused the ship to “split bolts” and the ship capsized in Mexican waters.

All 350 men on board the ship died.

This isn’t the first time treasure hunters have tried to look for the wreck.

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In 2006 and 2008, Mexican authorities rejected requests by the controversial U.S.-based treasure-hunting firm Odyssey Marine Exploration to look for the wreck.

Officials complained the company had no archaeological interest in it.

Most of the 350 men on board perished with it.

In 2007, the Black Swan Project recovered 17 tonnes of cargo from another Spanish wreck, the Napoleonic ship Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes off the coast of Portugal.

The 17 tonnes were estimated to be worth $500 million (£386 million).

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