January 16, 2008

The Fish Lizard is here!

Posted by: Rebecca Durkin

Q: What measures 21 feet in length, ways over a 1000 pounds, and takes 5+ hours to hoist onto a wall?

A: The Burke’s newest fossil – a 125 million year old ichthyosaur! Ichthyosaur means “fish lizard” in Latin, a name that describes well this fully aquatic marine reptile of the Mesozoic.

I didn’t push or lift a thing the whole time, but yesterday I witnessed the installation of this giant fossil from beginning to end, and found myself exhausted just watching the process which took hours.

After icy road delays, our friends at Artech arrived early at the Museum and unloaded the crated fossil, split into three pieces for manageability. First up the ramp was the most difficult piece, the 1200 pound body and center of the fossil. The lighter head and tail pieces flew up the ramp by comparison.

Museum staffers showed up to help with the pushing, pulling, and hoisting of the giant specimens, which were super tricky to maneuver through the doors of the Burke Room. (Sure I could have helped, but then who would have taken the photos?!)

I was surprised by how quickly the pieces went up once they were secured to the chain pulleys. The middle went up first and we finished with the head – a crowning for the day.

Want to watch the whole 5 hours of action condensed into one minute? Check out the video slideshow below.

Lots of cameras showed up to capture the process for local news – check out today’s Seattle Post-Intelligencer and The Seattle Times for feature photos in the B sections. KING, KOMO, and KIRO TV also featured the story on last night’s news.

- Rebecca


Top: Ichthyosaur in Burke Room

Bottom: Scan from The Seattle Times, 1/16/2008, (The Seattle Times photo by Steve Ringman).