T. rex to arrive in D.C. on Tuesday morning

How do you prepare a 65-million-year-old T.rex for travel? The Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Montana is making sure every bone has its place as the Wankel T.rex heads for Washington, D.C. (Lee Powell/The Washington Post)
April 14

Meet “Big Mike” — a bronze replica of a Tyrannosaurus rex. Big Mike lives in front of the Museum of the Rockies, at Montana State University in Boze­man, and is named after the school’s former president, Michael P. Malone.

Big Mike is based on the Wankel T. rex, which was discovered just before Labor Day in 1988 by Montana rancher Kathy Wankel. She’d been hiking with her husband in a rugged section of a federal wildlife refuge when she saw something — “like just a corner of an envelope sticking out.” It was an arm that belonged to one of the most complete Tyrannosaurus rex specimens ever unearthed.

The fossil has lived at the Museum of the Rockies since it was unearthed.

Because it was found on federal land, it belongs to the Army Corps of Engineers.

And because the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History doesn’t have a real Tyrannosaurus rex, the Army Corps is lending the Wankel T. rex to the museum on the Mall for the next 50 years. It will replace a life-size replica of “Stan,” a T. rex that was found in South Dakota in the 1980s.

Last week, scientists and other officials from the Army Corps, the Museum of the Rockies and the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum inspected, documented and packed each bone in Bozeman.

The Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum – the world’s second-most-visited museum behind the Louvre — is giving the Wankel T. rex a new name: the Nation’s T. rex.

The dinosaur formerly known as the Wankel T. rex is scheduled to arrive at the Natural History Museum early Tuesday morning.

The seal on the truck will be broken, and the crates will be unloaded and inspected.

And then, at 10 a.m., in an exhibition space just off the National Museum of Natural History rotunda, the public can watch as Smithsonian scientists and other staff members begin to work with the bones.

The Wankel T.rex is moving from Montana to Washington, D.C. in a 53-foot long semi driven by a husband and wife. (Lee Powell/The Washington Post)

They’ll be cleaned, repaired, reinforced and otherwise on view until National Fossil Day on Oct. 15, after which the bones will be shipped to Toronto, where the mount is being made. Eventually, the Nation’s T. rex will stand as the centerpiece of the museum’s dinosaur hall, which is closing April 28 for a five-year, $48 million makeover.

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