WASHINGTON -- One of the most complete Tyrannosaurus rex skeletons ever found is coming to the National Museum of Natural History.
In mid April, the 66-million-year-old T. rex will travel via FedEx from the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Mont. -- but not in your average truck.
"This is the kind of thing that we specialize in," says Ryan Henary, with Ohio-based FedEx Custom Critical, the FedEx operating company that deals with extra-special deliveries.
Henary says the skeleton, which is 38 feet long and weighs 7 tons, will be sealed in 16 crates of varying sizes, weighing between 150 and 1,300 pounds each. The T. Rex is set to arrive in D.C. on April 15.
The packaging of the dinosaur bones into the crates will be handled by the Smithsonian, which will use a foam bracing system inside each.
The crates will be loaded into a 53-foot customized tractor-trailer, where pads, straps and blankets will be used to make sure everything is secure.
"It's actually a husband-and-wife team that'll be driving it from Montana to D.C., and within the truck there's a few things to make sure that our T. rex has a safe ride there," Henary says.
Technology developed by FedEx called SenseAware will be used to closely monitor the precious cargo.
"SenseAware is a covert tracking device that we'll put right into one of the crates, and that gives us a live-time view of what's going on literally inside one of the crates that's traveling down the road. That'll be able to tell us exactly where it is, so it gives us a GPS location. It gives us a temperature reading, and it also gives us what we call a light exposure alert. So if someone would open that crate without us knowing about it, we're going to get a ping back here in Ohio, watching that screen that says, 'Hey, someone's opened this box, we're seeing light in it.' So it's an extra level of security that we're adding to something as one of a kind as our T. rex," Henary says.
The tractor-trailer team will not be driving alone.
"We actually have another FedEx Custom Critical husband-and-wife team that'll be just driving a cargo van, as what we call a chase vehicle, behind the tractor- trailer. Really, they're just there in case something would happen. It's an insurance policy, basically, so if we would encounter something along the way, we have another set of eyes; we have two more people there to deal with whatever it is that could occur," he says.
A farewell party for the T. rex will be held Friday in Montana, and a welcome ceremony is scheduled for 9 a.m. Tuesday, April 15, at the National Museum of Natural History.
The museum's dinosaur hall will close to the public on April 28 for a five-year, $48 million renovation.
When the new National Fossil Hall opens in 2019, the T. rex skeleton will be the main attraction.
The skeleton will be on loan to the Smithsonian for 50 years.
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