In reality, there was probably, like, one ship full of gold that sank, and Hollywood just ran with the idea.
But Actually ...
An astonishing 3 million shipwrecks remain on the ocean floor, waiting to be found by some adventurer. That's because early explorers were all about finding precious metals, and early colonies were all about mining it and shipping it back home. The trade routes were thus continually packed with ships bearing gold, silver, and other shiny things -- rickety, wooden ships that were continually sinking every time they ran into rough seas. And this was before anybody invented submarines or scuba gear that could go down and retrieve it -- what sank belonged forever to the singing crabs of the deep.
Pictured here with the hookers he later blew it all on.
So while you spend your paid vacation days sipping pina coladas on a Caribbean beach, at any given moment you're actually not far from some of the over $60 billion worth of undiscovered treasure lurking down among the fishes, hidden in boxes surrounded by pirate skeletons. Just over a year ago, a World War II-era British ship was discovered with 240 tons of silver still on board, worth $200 million. And people were laughing at the Tampa-based company Odyssey Marine Exploration for posting several years of losses, but in 2007, they found a $500 million wreck off of England. Who's laughing now? (Them. They are laughing.)
"Actually, now we're so rich that we pay others to laugh at you for us."