BOZEMAN, Mont. - Paleontologists and engineers finished packing up a priceless piece of Montana history Wednesday.
The Wankel T-Rex is one of the most complete tyrannosaurus fossils ever discovered. A deal inked between the Museum of the Rockies and the Smithsonian will make it the centerpiece of a new exhibit in Washington, D.C.
Many folks' first experience with "Big Mike," as he is known, is when they walk up to the Museum of the Rockies. A replica of the T-Rex is on the museum's front lawn. But it's the original that will be showcased in the $35 million renovation of the Museum of Natural History's new dinosaur hall.
World famous paleontologist Jack Horner helped dig up Big Mike and called the agreement historic.
Horner said, "A T-Rex that comes from Montana, collected by Montanans, is going to be the showcase specimen at the Smithsonian and end up being the most viewed dinosaur probably in history."
The Smithsonian chose FedEx to handle the actual shipping of the Wankel T-Rex, and the shipper offered to donate the cost of delivery.
The fossil will be traveling in a specially designed truck. FedEx has a special division to handle important, expensive and delicate shipping jobs like the Wankel T-Rex. The truck has special security features including a GPS that will alert FedEx if any crate leaves the truck before it arrives.
FedEx representatives tell us this is expected to be the biggest shipment they'll handle all year.
Ryan Henary with FedEx Custom Critical told us, "We've been talking for months about this to make sure that the load plan was built, that we had the right security in place for the move, that we had temperature control, that we had enough space in the truck here. Just a team effort to make sure this thing goes off without a hitch."
On Friday the Museum of the Rockies is holding a send-off for Big Mike starting at 11:30 a.m.
From Bozeman he will travel via FedEx truck to Washington, D.C. The trip is expected to take five days. Once there, he will be reassembled and prepared for the new dinosaur hall expected to open in 2019.