Experts Begin Hunt for Most Valuable British Shipwreck in History, and the Gold Worth 4 Billion

Experts Begin Hunt for Most Valuable British Shipwreck in History, and the Gold Worth 4 Billion

A team of marine experts are to begin hunting for the most valuable shipwreck in history which sank 400 years ago carrying $4.3 billion worth of gold.

Royal Merchant, a 17th-century English treasure ship known as “El Dorado of the Seas” sank in bad weather off Lands End, eastern England in 1641.

It was returning to Dartmouth laden with treasure from Mexico amounting to at least 100,000 pounds of gold, 400 bars of Mexican silver, and 500,000 pieces of eight.

Carrying a crew of 80 under the command of Capt. John Limbrey, the ship was described as having “£300,000 in silver, £100,000 in gold and as much again in jewel” lying in its hold.

Proceedings in the House of Commons were halted to hear the news it was lost, and King Charles I spoke of the event as the “greatest loss ever sustained in one ship.”

Fast forward to modern-day and in 2019, a massive anchor was brought up in the nets of The Spirited Lady off the coast of Cornwall, and experts speculated it belonged to the Royal Merchant.

So now a team of marine cargo recovery experts from Cornish-based company Multibeam Services is working with former local fishermen in a mission to find the wreck and its treasure.

Multibeam plans to spend all of 2024 looking for the wreck, covering a 200-square-mile area of the English Channel to the tune of millions of British pounds. They say if they find the boat, the governing authorities will be notified.

“We’ve got state-of-the-art technology, and one of the best dive teams in the world,” said Nigel Hodge, from Multibeam Services who leads the on-water team. “We will definitely find it—we’ve found everything we’ve ever looked for and we’ve been in the business looking for 35 years.”

“We are a team of marine exploration experts trained from working at sea as ex-commercial Cornish fisherman, so we have a knowledge of the local area.”

Multibeam will use remote-controlled unmanned submersibles equipped with sonar and cameras each costing around $3.8 million. The company has used them previously to find submarines and other shipwrecks.

With a treasure haul estimated at $4.3 billion, Multibeam aren’t the only ones interested in finding it, and in 2007, news reports surfaced that the wreck was apparently found by the US company Odyssey Marine Exploration.

The State Department Cables from Wikileaks revealed that Odyssey lost a legal battle and was ordered to hand over coins recovered from the wreck to Spain, suggesting that the ship was really a Spanish frigate.

The project to find the Merchant Royal will begin in April and will be televised in a series hosted by TV presenter Jason Fox.

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