Montana News

Apr 8, 2014 11:05 PM by Keele Smith - MTN News

65 million-year-old T Rex headed to nation's capital for next 50 years

BOZEMAN -- Big Mike outside the Museum of the Rockies is a creature many of us recognize. The T-Rex is actually a bronze replica of a fossil found in the 90's which is about to head to a new home in Washington D.C.

MTN's Keele Smith shows us how staff members are making sure the bones get there safely.

Pat Peiggi, Paleontology Administrative Director at the Museum of the Rockies, is helping pack up close to 200 dinosaur bones which he helped excavate in 1990.

Leiggi said, "We call in the Wankel T Rex. Or MOR 555. But it will be issued a Smithsonian number once it arrives there too."

He says, "It was a wonderful experience. I mean there aren't that many people who get to see a T Rex in the ground in the first place."

Now, the dino is heading to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History for a 50-year stay.

"There wasn't any specific reason why The Wankel was chosen other than the fact that it was more complete. It's about 80 percent complete and when you mount a skeleton, want it to be as complete as possible," Leiggi said.

The bones are roughly 65 millions years old. So, as you can imagine, the staff is making sure that each one is safe and secure for the trip east to Washington D.C.

Smithsonian Conservationist Becky Kaczkowski said, "Just the wrong impact in the wrong place and it will shatter. We're making sure we minimize possibility for vibration the possibility for each mineral element touching another. So everything is strapped down and padded before it's strapped down."

While the camera had to stay out of the work area, you can still get a sense of this detailed process of documenting and then padding each fossil with foam.

Kaczkowski said, "We have 16 crates. Each crate is going to have to be on the floor of the truck so we can't stack them. So it's a very very large truck."

Leiggi says, "We have to look at it on the other end too there to make sure that nothing has been broken or damaged. And Jack Horner will be joining us too a couple days later."

Leiggi is okay coming home without it because so many others will be able to see it.

"We've enjoyed having the Wankel T REX here but again, I think it's going to be really awesome to have it showcased at our national museum," he said.

The T Rex will be hitting the road on Friday. There will be a public send off at the museum starting at 11:30 a.m.

The Museum of the Rockies has the largest dinosaur collection in the world and the Wankel will be coming back to Montana after the 50 year lease is up.

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