The distance in space between Argentina and the UK (12,207 kilometers) is nothing compared to the distance in time between now and the life of the creature whose replica contents travelled in 32 boxes on board of two British Airways Boeing 787-9 aircraft, recently (95-100 million years). It isn’t every day that you get to transport a dinosaur cast in air cargo. IAG Cargo had the honor, on behalf of London’s Natural History Museum, which had appointed the cargo group back in NOV22 as its official exhibition logistics partner for the upcoming exhibition “Titanosaur: Life as the Biggest Dinosaur”.
Talk is of the skeleton cast of the world’s largest dinosaur ever discovered to date: The Titanosaur or Patagotitan mayorum. Its name, Titanosaurus, literally means Titanic Lizard. While Titanosaur fossils have been found on all continents (except Antarctica), from the mid-nineteenth century onwards, the largest ones (thought to have weighed more than 40 tons), have mostly been discovered in Patagonia. Hence, its alias: Patagotitan mayorum. The sauropod genus dinosaur, characterized by its large size, long neck and tail, small head, and four-legged stance, would have feasted on plants, and despite this healthy diet, would have weighed in at around 57 tons (some records even state 77 tons).
A full cast…
This particular skeleton, the most complete giant dinosaur ever found, was originally discovered by a farm worker in 2010 in the desert near La Flecha, Argentina, around 250 km west of Trelew. It was reported to the Museum of Paleontology Egidio Feruglio (MPEF) in Trelew, excavated from 2012 onwards, and finally officially named in 2017. All original bones were painstakingly 3D-recorded, and foam replicas cut of every single one to eventually create a full cast. It is this cast that recently made its way from Trelew, Argentina, to Buenos Aires, and then on to London’s Heathrow Airport, landing on British soil for the first time. Its end destination: Natural History Museum in London, where it will debut in Europe, in the museum’s new exhibition: “Titanosaur: Life as the Biggest Dinosaur”, which starts on 31MAR23 and runs through to 07JAN24. “The exhibition will … take visitors on a journey through the life of a titanosaur, exploring how a creature of this size could have survived on Earth. At over three times heavier than Dippy the Diplodocus, this gigantic creature is a must-see,” the press release underlines. (Dippy, the first Diplodocus dinosaur ever to be displayed in a museum, was originally gifted to the Natural History Museum in 1905, and remained there for the next 92 years, before it started on its own road trip to other museums.)
… on two aircraft
“The Titanosaur Patagotitan Mayorum is around the same length as a British Airways’ Airbus A320,” IAG Cargo’s press release points out. The impressive skeleton, however, was dismantled at the MPEF in Trelew, into 32 crates, and then transported alongside 4 more crates housing real fossils – among them, a real femur bone measuring over two meter in length. The precious cargo was carefully loaded into the lower deck hold of two British Airways B787-9 passenger aircraft. Upon landing at London Heathrow, the unique freight was transported to a special facility ahead of its journey to the Natural History Museum where it will be re-assembled ready for public display in March.
An honor and a privilege
John Cheetham, Chief Commercial Officer at IAG Cargo, thanked all involved in the extraordinary cargo project: “It is a privilege to partner with the Natural History Museum as the custodian of some of the world’s most important scientific artefacts. I want to thank our teams in Argentina and the UK who made this colossal task of transporting a 37-metre dinosaur a reality.”
Alex Burch, Director of Public Programs at the Natural History Museum, was grateful for the Group’s experience in transporting valuable and fragile cargo: “We’re pleased to have IAG Cargo as our exhibition logistics partner on this exhibition. As one of the largest dinosaurs to ever roam the Earth, it is so important that we are able to showcase this cast to the public, connecting our visitors with nature and inspiring them to care for the large animals we share the planet with today.”
And speaking on behalf of the crew, British Airways’ Captain Simon Boswell, said: “I and the entire team felt honored and privileged to fly this unique artefact from Argentina to the UK, and it was really very special to have been able to carry this precious cargo on a British Airways’ aircraft. Working with our sister company IAG Cargo, we’re delighted to have been able to play our part in its safe onward journey.”
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