FedEx Shipping 65M Years' Worth Of History Across America: Exclusive
April 4, 2014

FedEx Shipping 65M Years’ Worth Of History Across America: Exclusive

Lawrence LeBlond for - Your Universe Online

FedEx is no stranger to shipping important artifacts and precious cargo around the world, such as the advanced technological equipment used for the search for Amelia Earhart’s Model 10 Electra airplane and the movement of two pairs of endangered giant pandas from China to Scotland and France. However, the shipper’s latest adventure is a project 65 million years in the making.

Later this month, FedEx Custom Critical (FCC) will be shipping a seven-ton, 38-foot-long, Late Cretaceous-era, nearly complete skeleton of Tyrannosaurus rex from Bozeman, Montana to Washington, DC. The move begins on April 15 and is expected to last about four days.

The T. rex skeleton, which has been housed at the Museum of the Rockies since shortly after the first fossil fragment was discovered in 1988, will go to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History for the next 50 years where it will become the centerpiece of a new dinosaur hall, where as many as seven million visitors per year will be able to view the fossil close up.

According to a FedEx fact sheet, rancher Kathy Wankel discovered the first arm bone of this 65-million-year-old apex predator at Fort Peck Reservoir in 1988. After bringing the bone to the Museum of the Rockies, a team of paleontologists initiated an intense search around the reservoir to see if there were any more remnants of this dinosaur. The excavation resulted in recovery of about 80 percent of the dinosaur’s skeleton. This T. rex is now regarded as one of the most complete specimens ever known.

But before this nearly complete dinosaur can go on display for millions of annual visitors in the Nation’s Capital, it must make an estimated 2,000-mile journey aboard a specially branded FedEx delivery truck.

While FedEx moves packages every day, shipping a seven-ton dinosaur fossil is no easy task. This is why FCC has employed a top notch crew and incorporated several innovative systems to ensure the skeleton has a safe journey across America.

FCC has been working closely with personnel from both museums to strategically place the skeletal pieces on pallets and safely secure them in the truck for the four-day trip.

According to FCC President and CEO Virginia Albanese, it has been quite a process planning for this epic adventure.

“Planning started in late August and a number of items were considered, from what temperature the fossil needed to be shipped at to packing the fragile bones correctly, as well as the safest and most efficient route to take,” Albanese told redOrbit via email.

“All in all, the bones make up 16 crates, ranging from 150 to 1300 pounds in weight. Every single bone was carefully inspected before being packed. All of the boxes fit into the FedEx Custom Critical truck,” she added.


With the truck packed and ready to go, FedEx Custom Critical will be utilizing several innovative features to ensure safe delivery. Among these, include technology called FedEx ShipmentWatch, featuring SenseAware, which offers near real-time monitoring of environmental factors, such as location, temperature, humidity, light exposure and barometric pressure. FCC will use on-board satellite through the FCC SecureComm Command center to allow the truck to be tracked 24 hours a day during the four-day trip. The project is also using OmniTracs technology – formerly Qualcomm – to allow the FCC team to communicate with the drivers directly. GPS technology will guide the drivers along the fastest and safest route.

“FedEx [also] has a team dedicated to the movement of T-rex skeleton,” said Albanese.

“We have two drivers (a husband and wife team), two drivers in a chase vehicle (following the truck throughout the route for enhanced security) and a team at FedEx Custom Critical who will monitor data output from the truck throughout its journey,” she told redOrbit. “The husband and wife drivers are John and Tammy Brubaker and have been working with Custom Critical since 2009.”

If you remember correctly, FedEx provided its logistical expertise in 2012 to help TIGHAR with shipment of two high-tech pieces of equipment as part of the Niku VII project.

Ric Gillespie, Executive Director of TIGHAR, told redOrbit in 2012 that FedEx played a “vital part” in the search for an answer to the Amelia Earhart mystery for more than 16 years. He said FedEx donated all shipping costs of “archaeological equipment and supplies to ports of embarkation for six on-shore archaeological surveys of Nikumaroro” since 1996.

“Our forty years of experience of shipping the world’s most delicate or expensive items has prepared us for [the T. rex] journey. Our work with TIGHAR and the Amelia Earhart expedition is a part of that, and so is the work we’ve done with other priceless materials including pieces of the Titanic and historic Machu Picchu artifacts. Regardless of the shipment, the priority is always the same – to ensure the safe delivery of customer materials in a timely manner,” Albanese told redOrbit.

Albanese noted that this is not the first time FedEx has shipped a dinosaur fossil, but was not able to disclose details of past moves without customer permission. She did say, however, that “the husband and wife team driving the truck have previously shipped a giant sea turtle fossil.”

When asked if this would be FedEx’s most difficult move to date, Albanese explained, “Regarding the difficulty level, we have a history of moving precious cargo, and this is another instance where we rely on the white glove service of FedEx Custom Critical to meet the intricate needs for this shipment.”


That “history of moving precious cargo” has also involved the shipment of live animals, something FCC has taken great pride in in the past.

“Shipping a live animal requires additional work with the animal’s keepers and veterinarians to ensure the animal has everything it needs during the journey. In the case of the pandas, for the last shipment to Canada we had on board two attendants and a vet for both the pandas. For the fossil, we’ll obviously have several people monitoring the shipment closely but it is different from working with a live animal,” concluded Albanese.

According to the FedEx fact sheet, the delivery company “works with museums, art galleries, and NASA among many others on a regular basis to support the safe delivery of priceless artifacts and equipment. The FedEx Custom Critical White Glove Services® division transports fragile works of art as exhibitions tour the U.S.”

Besides the 2012 Niku VII project delivery, FCC has been involved in several key delivery projects around the world over the past several years.

In 2011, the company delivered Fenix rescue capsules used in the historic rescue of 33 Chilean miners who were trapped nearly 2,300 feet underground. In 2010, FedEx moved more than 15,000 sea turtle eggs from the northern Gulf of Mexico to Florida’s Atlantic Coast to protect them from the Deep Horizon oil spill. A complete sterling silver service created for the USS Indiana in 1896 was delivered to the USS Indiana Museum Indian War Memorial in Indianapolis in 2008, after 70 years at sea. And in 2006, FedEx moved 90 tons of material for the “Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition,” which included a 3,000-pound piece of the ship’s hull, from Milan, Italy to Atlanta, Georgia.

Be on the lookout later this month for the specially branded FedEx Custom Critical delivery truck as it moves 65 million years’ worth of history across the country. The move is scheduled to begin on April 15.


Images Below: (LEFT) T. rex skeleton outside the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, MT. (MIDDLE) Team members stand over a fossil of T. rex at Fort Peck Reservoir during a 1988 excavation. (RIGHT) A close up of the T. rex skull at Museum of the Rockies. Credit: Museum of the Rockies/FedEx