A British warship which is thought to contain around £1 billion in gold is to be raised by an Argentinian treasure hunter.
The Lord Clive was sunk 250 years ago off the coast of Uruguay, in a battle with the Spanish.
The ship’s captain, Robert McNamara, was attempting to reclaim the city of Colonia del Sacramento at the end of the Seven Years’ War.
The 64-gun vessel was sunk in a Spanish counterattack, however, with 272 of its crew killed, including McNamara.
78 servicemen made it to shore, only to be tried and hanged by the Spanish.
Now, Ruben Collado, who discovered the wreck in 2004, is attempting to recover the ship, which is thought to contain a vast haul of gold coins.
A team of divers will be sent to recover the former Royal Navy ship in February.
Built in Hull as HMS Kingston, the vessel was launched in 1697.
She was renamed after Major General Robert Clive after being sold in 1762, before sailing to South America on behalf of the East India Company to bring funds for men and British military campaigns.
Collado says the effort to recover it is important for its cultural significance as well as its riches.
He told The Times:
“If that ship had not failed in its attempt to retake the city of Colonia del Sacramento, today we could be speaking English throughout Latin America.”
“Had the Lord Clive fired its cannons from a greater distance, Colonia del Sacramento would have been destroyed in one hour.”
The treasure hunter has been waiting years to salvage the ship and was finally given the green light by Uruguay’s Ministry of Economy and finance last year.
He could be entitled to half of any treasure found.
The wreck lies just 16ft underwater but its recovery is complicated because the Spanish loaded rocks onto it to stop it from floating to the surface.
It’s estimated the operation will cost around £4 million and require a team of 80.
“The rescue of the ship would have an impact on the city no less important than when Unesco declared it — justly — a World Heritage Site.”
“This is the history of Latin America and the Spanish.”