MacDill Air Force Base Helps Transfer Spanish Gold

Staff Sgt. Benjamin Woods, 6th Logistics Readiness Squadron air freight supervisor, places a pallet of Spanish coins in a line, Feb. 23, 2012, at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla. The coins, which were lost at sea in the 19th century, are being packaged on pallets in preparation for their long-awaited return to Spain. (U. S. Air Force photo/Airman Basic David Tracy)

More than 17 tons of shipwreck treasure is on its way from Tampa’s MacDill Air Force Base to the Spanish government.

The estimated $500 million worth of gold and silver coins was discovered in 2007 by Odyssey Marine Exploration of Tampa.

The treasure hunting corporation found a shipwrecked Spanish galleon sunk by British warships off the coast of Portugal in 1804. The ship laden with gold had been near the end of its voyage from South America when attacked.

The Spanish government laid claim to the Odyssey’s find and after a legal battle that lasted almost five years, Spain won ownership of the treasure that Odyssey recovered from the depths using a remote controlled robot.

Rodney Pate, a Transit Alert employee with the 6th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, guides in a Spanish C-130, Feb. 23, 2012, at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla. MacDill hosted two Spanish C-130 aircraft dispatched by the Spanish government to retrieve Spanish coins that were lost at sea in the 19th century. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman Basic David Tracy)

After losing their legal appeals, the treasure hunters brought the coins to Tampa’s airbase for transfer. Airmen from MacDill helped ensure the gold was loaded safely aboard two Spanish Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft.

Friday, the nearly 600,000 coins and artifacts were then flown out of Tampa’s military base headed to Spain, their original destination more than 200 years ago.

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