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T. Rex on FedEx: Rare Bones to be Shipped from Montana to D.C.

First Posted: Apr 07, 2014 07:17 PM EDT
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One of the most complete set of Tyrannosaurus rex bones in the world is set to ride the biggest shipper in the world to the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.

The so-called "Wankel rex," nicknamed after Kathy Wankel, the Montana rancher who discovered the fossilizeded meat eater in 1988, is on track to be the highlight of the national museum's new $35 million National Fossil Hall, to open in 2019.

The 65 million-year-old skeleton, the property of the United States Army Corps of Engineers, was displayed for many years at the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman and was originally supposed to be shipped to Washington in October.

But, the trip, which requires the coordination of several government agencies, was first put on hold because of a 16-day government shut-down. That was followed by extended winter weather which proved too hazardous to transport the skeleton.

Now that the icy months are over, the various segments of "Big Mike," as some call the T. rex, will be loaded into a customized trailer, that will be managed and monitored throughout the 2,000 journey by FedEx Custom Critical.

"It's truly one of a kind, we are very confident that we're the right company to transport something like this," Ryan Henary, a spokesman for FedEx Custom Critical, said in a piece by Nature World News.

"We'd prefer not to move him out of Bozeman in the snow," Kirk Johnson, the director of the Museum of Natural History, was also quoted in the story. "It's a complete Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton, and there aren't that many of those around. You don't want to ding him up."

To ship the priceless cargo, Henary said, FedEx will use its "SenseAware" technology, which can keep track of the custom moving truck's every movement, keep the fossils at a specific temperature, barometric pressure and humidity level and detect -- and sound alarms -- if any of seals on the packages containing the ancient shipment are broken or cracked before they reach their destination in the nation's capital.

The T. rex will be driven by a husband-and-wife tractor-trailer team that plans leave the Museum of the Rockies Friday afternoon, accompanied by a FedEx "chase vehicle" that will be on hand to assist the drivers with any potential problems that arise during transport.

The dinosaur will be packed by museum and federal officials into crates fitted with foam bracing material, and that each will weigh between 150-1,300 pounds.

The crates will then be secured with padding and blankets, Henary said.

Before the "Wankel rex" is placed on display, every bone will be digitally scanned to produce a virtual record of the dinosaur's remains -- which can be used to print replicas of all various sizes.

The fossils are expected to arrive in Washington on Sunday and will be held in a secure staging area until April 15, when the natural history museum will publicly receive the shipment.

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