Odyssey and the Lost Spanish Treasure

When explorers found roughly $500 million in sunken treasure they thought it was theirs to keep. Spain disagreed
Francis Sartorius's 1807 depiction of the sinking of the 'Mercedes' National Maritime Museum/The Image Works

Before dawn on Feb. 16, a semitrailer truck left a secret, well-protected compound outside Sarasota, Fla., loaded with nearly nine tons of 200-year-old silver coins. Three U.S. Marshals and a security detail hired by the government of Spain guarded the truck on its 60-mile drive to MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa. There, U.S. airmen unloaded it so the truck could return to Sarasota for the rest of the coins. In all, 17 tons of coins, packed into 551 white plastic buckets, were transferred to two Spanish C130 Hercules military planes. The planes took off the next afternoon and arrived at the Torrejon Air Base in Madrid 28 hours later.

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