October 18, 2013
Massive Diplodocus Fossil Hits Auction Block Next Month
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Anyone with a very large display space and over half-a-million bucks of disposable income should consider a trip to southern England next month where a 55-foot-long dinosaur skeleton is expected to be auctioned off.The skeleton is of a Diplodocus longus named “Misty,” which was discovered near the fossil hotbed Dana Quarry in Wyoming, in 2009. Misty would be the first dinosaur ever put up for auction.
According to Errol Fuller, an author who curates the auction, there are around six of these skeletons in museums around the world. He added the sons of renowned fossil hunter Raimund Albersdörfer first discovered the fossil after their father sent them to dig an area near the Dana Quarry.
"He directed them to this area - just very close to, but not actually in the quarry - where he thought there might be some very worthless fragments and they came back at the end of the day and said they'd found an enormous bone," Fuller told CNN. "They quickly realized that there was going to be many other bones ... so they stopped work on the proper quarry."
The paleontology team needed nine weeks to excavate the entire skeleton. Fuller said the team named the dinosaur Misty because the fossil was discovered at a "mysterious quarry.”
Because the fossil was discovered on private, not public, land, it does not fall under the auspices of federal regulations.
"It's perfectly legal to bring it from America and legal to move it to any country in the world," Fuller said. "Museum workers will sometimes try to stop these things ... but almost every great fossil discovery was made by fossil collectors or dealers."
The auctioneer said the dinosaur could easily be stored and preserved “as long as the skeleton was reasonably, carefully handled and reasonably, carefully housed."
He speculated it would take two or three persons about a day to take down the skeleton from its scaffolding and another day to put it up again. He added the Summers Place auction house could arrange supervision of the process.
"It's been specially designed so that it can be dissembled and assembled again," Fuller said. "There's no piece so heavy that two people couldn't lift it."
He noted how the fossil’s metal scaffolding, or armature, is "a feat of engineering. It's maybe 60 feet long by 12 feet high and a colossal weight. There are quite a lot of safety considerations because you don't want pieces falling off."
The auction house has estimated the fossil will ultimately go for between $640,000 and $960,000, a paltry sum compared to a Ferrari that sold for nearly $27 million in August, Fuller said.
"If I was a rich man, I could actually have a fossil dinosaur ... that would impress my friends much more than a Ferrari and it would cost me just a fraction of ($27 million)," he mused. "That is really incredibly cheap if you compare it with a collector's car and you've got a much more spectacular, gob-smacking exhibition."