Outta Here: The Wankel T. Rex
After 66 Million Years In Montana, Big Guy Heads To Smithsonian
It was a slow and tedious process as the newly found Tyrannosaurus rex was pulled from the ground around 25 years ago. The skeleton was discovered near the Fort Peck Reservoir by Kathy Wankel, of Angela, in 1988.
The skeleton was found on federal land and took until 1990 to finish pulling the most complete Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton ever discovered from the ground. Field crews led by Jack Horner, now a regents professor of paleontology at the Museum of the Rockies, finished the work and sent him packing to his home. He was then sent to the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman where he was displayed and attracted many visitors each year. He was named after the discoverer, Wankel T. rex.
The skeleton, which has resided in Montana for the past 66 million years, will now travel to the Smithsonian's National Museum of History. In June 2013, the U.S. Army Corps Engineers, Northwester Division, agreed to loan out the skeleton, one of two owned by the Corps to the national museum. The museum has more than seven million visitors each year and the Wankel T. rex will be the centerpiece of its new $35 million dinosaur hall. He'll remain there for the world to view for the next 50 years. The exhibit isn't expected to open until 2019.
For a very special sendoff, the museum will be inviting the public to join in free festivities from 11:30 a.m to 1:30 p.m. A hot dog picnic and appearances by several dignitaries and museum's mascot, Rocky Rex, will be around for the fun.
The bones, now carefully packed in several crates to help transport safely to his new destination, will caravan through Main Street in Bozeman at 2 p.m. A FedEx truck will have a police escort through town. Dignitaries in an antique bus from the Yellowstone National Park and paleontology vehicles from the Museum of the Rockies will join the line of vehicles sending him off.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is collaborating with the Museum of the Rockies to mount another federal T. rex specimen in the Siebel Dinosaur Complex. The bronze skeleton replica, fondly named "Big Mike" has been a popular photo opportunity for tourists and will continue to welcome guests.
Wankel T. rex is expected to reach Washington, D.C., on April 15, and become the most viewed T. rex fossil in the world. The corps will be completing a detailed inventory and inspection before he reaches his final destination.