The lure of buried treasure at sea, the pricey detritus of shipwrecks long past, has drawn countless treasure hunters to seek out underwater riches.
Though some claim certain wrecks' locations have been discovered, their treasure still lies buried at sea, often a result of international disputes between nations and the treasure hunters who've discovered the wreck. Other wrecks remain an utter mystery, missing for hundreds of years along with cargos worth millions -- even billions -- of dollars.
Click through to discover the world's most amazing sunken treasure that remain undersea.
David Cordingly et autres, Pirates, terror on the High Seas - from the Caribbean to the South China Sea via Wikimedia Commons2 of 9
The War of Spanish Succession was raging in 1708 when a British squadron encountered a fleet of three Spanish treasure ships in the southern Caribbean.
The ships held millions of gold and silver pesos when the squadron set upon them in a fiery battle. One of the Spanish ships escaped, and one (with very little treasure on board) was beached. The third ship, the San Jose, unexpectedly exploded after an hour of fierce fighting. The ship sank along with its treasure, thought to be between seven and 11 million pesos.
The treasure remains submerged on the bottom of the sea, believed to be near Colombia's Baru Peninsula, and is perpetually sought by treasure hunters striving to find what's been called, "The Holy Grail of Shipwrecks."
Still, the wreck's location remains a true mystery, despite various treasure hunters claiming to have located the ship's remains.
Flor de la Mar
After conquering Malacca in 1511, the Portuguese vessel Flor de la Mar set sail for Lisbon, carrying the spoils of nearly a decade of conquests and gifts from the King of Siam, including 60 tons of gold coins, figurines, and furnishings, as well as chests filled with precious gems.
While crossing the Strait of Malacca, the ship was ravaged by a storm and sank, along with her treasure. Attempts over the years to locate and recover the wreck have failed, and the lost treasure of the Flor de la Mar is considered one of the richest yet to be found.
In 1641, the battered English merchant ship, Merchant Royal, limped into port in Cadiz, Spain, leaking badly and carrying treasure accrued during trading with Spanish colonies in the West Indies.
Despite her condition, the ship's captain agreed to fill her with more treasure from a Spanish ship that had caught fire in port, delivering those goods to Antwerp, Belgium. When the Merchant set sail, she was carrying an estimated 100,000 pounds of gold, 400 bars of silver and 500,000 coins.
The ship's pumps eventually broke down, and when foul weather struck near Land's End, Cornwall (pictured here), she sunk, leaving 18 men drowned and her treasure buried at sea.
Despite the best efforts of Odyssey Marine Exploration to locate the wreck over the years, the Merchant Royal and her vast treasure remain buried at sea.
Notre Dame de Deliverance
The French 64-cannon ship, Notre Dame de Deliverance, set sail from Havana, Cuba in 1755 after completing its commission from the Spanish government to procure treasures from mines in Mexico, Peru and Colombia.
Loaded with gold bullion, coins, silver and precious gems, the ship encountered a storm just 40 miles off the coast of Key West, Fla., and sank, taking with it a cargo whose current estimated value is $3 billion.
In 2003, Maine-based Sub Sea Research owner, Greg Brooks (pictured here) claimed to have discovered the wreck, sparking an international fight between the firm and the Spanish government, which believed it had rights to the cargo.
Though a Florida district judge granted Sub Sea Research permission to excavate, that order was thwarted by the U.S. State Department which said the company needed Spain's permission before it began to salvage the ship's remains.
Ultimately, the company quietly abandoned its quest for the Deliverance, and the ship's whereabouts and cargo remain one of treasure hunting's biggest mysteries.
The British Royal Navy's 100-gun HMS Victory was tossed to pieces in 1744 during a storm along the English Channel while sailing home to England. The ship and all 1,150 members of her crew were lost in the wreck, though bits of the ship's wreckage, like the topmast, washed ashore in the months following the tragedy.
In 2009, Odyssey Marine Exploration claimed to have discovered the Victory some 62 miles from where it was believed to have sunk. The company believes that the ship's treasure includes 100 bronze cannons (one pictured here) and possibly three tons of gold coins, and has surveyed the site and recovered two cannon to determine the wreck's identity.
Currently, the future management of the wreck's excavation will be handled by Britain's Maritime Heritage Foundation, with recovery to be completed by Odyssey in the coming months.
Illustration of HMS Sussex by John Batchelor, Courtesy Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc., www.shipwreck.net7 of 9
Perhaps one of the world's most valuable wrecks, the HMS Sussex sank in 1694 during a storm off the coast of Gibraltar while carrying as much as 10 tons of gold coins valued today at over $500 million.
The 80-gun British Royal Navy Ship had been escorting a fleet of 48 warships and 166 merchant ships en route to the Mediterranean when disaster struck, sinking the Sussex and 12 other ships.
Odyssey Marine Exploration claimed it discovered the remains of the ship and in 2002 entered an agreement with the British government to share any recovered loot. Just as Odyssey was poised to begin excavation, the Spanish government stepped in to halt the work on grounds that a Spanish archaeologist should be present.
In 2007, Spain determined that excavation could begin again, but then cancelled the agreement once it entered into a contentious battle with the company regarding the remains and bounty of another shipwreck, the Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes.
SS Port Nicholson
The $3 billion worth of platinum bars thought to be buried with wreck of the SS Port Nicholson, and believed to have been discovered by Greg Brooks of Sub Sea Research, is the latest controversy to stir the world of treasure hunting.
Brooks claims that in 2008 he located the British merchant ship, which had been sunk by a German U-boat off the coast of Cape Cod in 1942, though he kept the discovery secret until February 2012.
Though Brooks says the ship had been en route to New York carrying 71 tons of platinum, a payment from Russia for World War II supplies, the British government and other maritime experts disputes the claim, saying that the vessel was primarily carrying machinery.
Undeterred, Brooks plans to forge forward with surveying the wreck and starting the excavation. Britain will wait until the recovery efforts begin before determining whether they will make a claim on any salvaged goods.
Next: Treasure Hunters' Greatest Underwater Discoveries
When the British steamer SS Mantola set sail for Calcutta, India from London in 1917, she was carrying 165 crew members, 18 passengers and a stunning 600,000 ounces of silver bullion.
A mere four days after setting sail, the boat was spotted by a German U-boat and torpedoed. Though the passengers and crew were able to evacuate on lifeboats, the ship would ultimately sink, along with her valuable cargo, which in 1917 was valued at £110,000.
The Mantola was discovered by Odyssey Marine Exploration in 2011, while the company was searching out the remains of the SS Gairsoppa.
Recovery of the Mantola's silver has yet to begin, but will be worked on in conjunction with the Gairsoppa. Odyssey stresses that the current value of the silver onboard cannot be estimated until the recovery has been completed.