(LOS ANGELES TIMES) — One of the world’s largest shipwreck treasures is being loaded onto Spanish military planes in Florida on Friday to complete a long-delayed trip home that began more than 200 years ago but was interrupted by war on the high seas and a nasty legal battle over ownership.

The Spanish galleon Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes was sunk by British warships off Europe’s Atlantic coast in 1804 while on its return from South America. It was carrying more than half a million gold and silver coins back to Spain — valued today at several hundred million dollars — along what was once one of the world’s most-traveled routes for warships and trade.

In 2007, a U.S. deep-sea diving company, Odyssey Marine Exploration, used underwater robots to locate the long-lost vessel on the ocean floor off Portugal. The company laid claim to the bounty and says it spent more than $2 million to retrieve the precious cargo, the biggest trove of coins ever extracted from the deep sea. The haul was flown back to Florida, where the 17 tons of mostly 18th century silver coins have been kept in warehouses in Sarasota.

Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.