CARTAGENA, Colombia, Dec. 5 (UPI) -- A Spanish galleon thought to have exploded and sunk in the Caribbean near the Colombian coast 300 years ago has been found, and so far appears to be intact, according to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.
Santos first announced the discovery of the San Jose on Twitter, and then in a press conference, calling it "one of the biggest findings and identification of underwater heritage in the history of humanity."
The legendary treasure ship sank in 1708 carrying gold and silver estimated to be worth between $4 billion and $17 billion, reported CNN.
"I am very pleased, as head of state, to inform you that, without a doubt, we have found, 307 years after its sinking, the galleon San Jose," Santos said at a press conference.
The ship was loaded with gold and silver from mines in Peru, with the intention to fund the Spanish War of Succession, which was fought from 1701 to 1714 between France and Austria over who would rule Spain.
The ship was sunk after being outgunned by a British ship as it left the port of Cartagena, according to a history of the San Jose published by Sea Search Armada, a marine salvaging company that claims it found the ship in 1981.
SSA lost a lawsuit over its claim of the find in 2011, and Colombia claims ownership of the ship based on its Cultural Patrimony of the waters off its coast, as well as 50 percent of what is not deemed "cultural heritage."
Since 2013, the Colombian Institute of Anthropology and History has been scanning the waters off the coast. The agency said the ship was found in a place "never before referred to by previous studies," suggesting SSA had the wrong location.
The Colombian government discovered the ship on November 27, saying they observed bronze cannons, drawers, ceramic and porcelain vases, and personal weapons, according to an announcement by Santos' office.
The site has not yet been tapped, but the government said excavation is likely to take several years -- the discovery is entirely based on scans of the site.
"The Colombian government will continue its process of research, exploration and protection underwater cultural heritage, in accordance with current legislation and public policies of the Colombian state," Santos said at the press conference.