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Top 8 Most Unusual Things We’ve Ever Shipped: Part II

By FedEx | First published: February 27, 2023    Updated: October 20, 2023

Whether rescuing animals in need or shipping priceless cultural artifacts, we have decades of experience moving highly rare items around the world. Discover more in the second instalment of our Unusual Shipments series.

Out-of-the-ordinary shipments? We’ve got them covered. Over the years, across our global business lines, we’ve transported rare and irreplaceable shipments including historical artifacts, cultural monuments, endangered species and wild animals in need.

In the second part of our Unusual Shipments series, check out some of our most mind-blowing logistical challenges below:

1. Bringing ‘Alice In Wonderland’ to life with 33 tons of plants
Two male FedEx couriers move large plants from back of truck

In 2022, we invited Memphis locals and visiting tourists on a trip down the rabbit hole with Alice’s Adventures at the Garden, an immersive art experience at the Memphis Botanic Garden.

The display featured over 35,000 living plants and 33 tons of sculpture: no mean feat to transport and set up. Exhibits were over 20 feet high, featuring beloved characters from the story such as Alice, the White Rabbit and the Queen of Hearts. The living plants needed to be carefully transported from the Atlanta Botanical Gardens in a temperature-controlled environment of around 21°C.

As part of our global Delivering for Good initiative, we donated the cost of our shipping services to the non-profit Memphis Botanic Garden, helping local communities to experience the joy of this magical exhibition first-hand.

2. Sacred Tibetan artefacts in Taiwan
Ancient Tibetan bronze prayer artifact

In 2010, we were entrusted with the careful shipping of rare Buddhist artifacts from special museum collections, palaces and monasteries across China to Taipei.

The “Sacred Land Tibet – Treasures from the Roof of the World” exhibit at the Taiwan National Palace Museum curated the most complete collection of rarely-shown Tibetan Buddhist artifacts ever displayed.

130 art pieces included statues, paintings, mandalas and other sacred objects dating back to the 5th century. As a shipper of choice for rare and delicate cargo, we’ve also transported jade burial suits, Terracotta warriors and other priceless cultural artifacts across China in the last two decades.

3. The rare T. Rex skeleton that gripped a nation
Rare Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton

The chance to see a real dinosaur skeleton is a dream come true for any natural history enthusiast, and museums all over the world jump at the chance to display one. In 2014, we transported a rare Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton from the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Montana to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.

The 65-million-year-old fossil was dubbed ‘The Nation’s T. Rex’. At 38 feet long and weighing seven tons, it is regarded as one of the most complete specimens known to man. It was transported from Montana to Washington, D.C. in a four-day road trip, on a FedEx Custom Critical truck driven by a special team of FedEx couriers: a husband and wife. With truly priceless cargo of immense historical importance, special precautions had to be taken to ensure safety en-route.

Measures included proactive monitoring and visibility, with observation devices to constantly checking temperature, humidity, light exposure and barometric pressure during transit. A thrilling story lies behind the discovery of the dinosaur bones. An arm bone - the first T. Rex arm bone ever found - was discovered in 1988 in the Fort Peck Reservoir by a local rancher. The find led to an intense excavation around the reservoir, resulting in the unearthing of 80% of the dinosaur’s skeleton. The Nation’s T. Rex is on loan to the Smithsonian for 50 years.

4. A forever home for the ‘Sunrise Seven’ chimpanzees
Seven adult chimpanzees

When a California animal refuge closed in 2019, more than 450 animals needed relocation. Over time, all the animals from the sanctuary found new homes –except for a group of chimpanzees dubbed “The Sunrise Seven” - Vanilla, Shake, Cayleb, Ernesta, Jacob, Jeff, and Magic.

Eventually, a home was found with Save the Chimps, one of the largest chimpanzee sanctuaries in the world. We teamed up with the sanctuary to transport the chimps safely to Florida, more than 4,000 km away.
The 150-acre sanctuary is home to over 220 chimpanzees and is spread across 12 islands, each offering a unique social structure to suit different primate personalities. The refuge space is designed to provide the chimps with the very best lifelong care and the opportunity to enjoy nature and the outdoors. Good luck, Sunrise Seven!

5. A journey with ‘Jaws’, the tiger shark featured in the 1975 film
Great white shark swimming underwater

Remember the iconic predator film, ‘Jaws’, featuring a great white shark that hunts the beaches of New England for human prey? In one of our earliest unusual shipments on record, we helped bring Jaws to cinematic life by transporting the star, an almost four-meter tiger shark to Steven Spielberg’s film set.

Way back in 1974, we shipped the shark in a four-and-a-half-meter casket from Florida to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, where the film was shot.

6. A snappy delivery: 120 live crocodiles
6 males in high-vis vests around large crate

In 2022, our teams were tasked with an extra-special delivery: shipping 120 fully-grown crocodiles from Johannesburg, South Africa to a wildlife park in Dubai.

Individual crates were placed carefully and secured tightly so that the reptiles were able to enjoy the smoothest possible flight. With the strongest bite of any animal in the world, we handled this shipment with extreme care!

7. Safeguarding priceless Inca artifacts from Machu Picchu
Ancient settlement on top of high mountains

Machu Picchu is one of the Seven Wonders of the World: a 15th century Inca citadel on an almost 8,000 ft mountain peak in Southern Peru. Often referred to as the ‘Lost City of the Incas’, the ancient site has captured the imagination of historians for centuries. More recently, tourists flock from all over the world to experience this mysterious place.

Back in 2013, we had an enormous challenge on our hands: successful transportation of 127 crates of historic Machu Picchu artifacts from Newark, New Jersey to Lima, Peru. The crates contained delicate stone tools and fragile ceramic fragments first excavated by archaeologist Hiram Bingham in 1912.

Conserved for nearly a century at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, the crates were destined for their new home at the UNSAAC-Yale International Center for the Study of Machu Picchu and Inca Culture - just a short train ride from the ancient Machu Picchu site.

As well as co-ordinating with museum custodians and academics, we also worked with the Peruvian government, airport authorities and customs agents to ensure that the nine-hour journey went without a hitch.

8. Transporting the Phoenix capsule from famous Chilean miner rescue
FedEx plane flying above clouds

In 2013, we also transported the “Phoenix” capsule, a device used to aid in the rescue of 33 miners who were trapped for nearly ten weeks in a Chilean mine. Following the rescue in 2010, the capsule toured the globe before returning to Santiago, Chile.

Delivering for future generations

We have a long and exciting history of using our global network and expertise to transport rare, fragile cargo around the world. These highly thrilling delivery missions are the result of extremely meticulous planning and close collaboration with historians, archaeologists, botanists and experts in conservation and animal welfare.

Whether to preserve our rich cultural history for future generations or to re-home endangered species, we donate our shipping services using our Delivering for Good program to contribute to educating communities and supporting cultural exchange and academic study.

Besides being famous for shipping giant pandas over the years, other unusual cargo we’ve transported includes Ancient Egyptian artifacts, items from the RMS Titanic, and elephants, rhinos, jellyfish, lions, gorillas, and eagles. You can find more fascinating stories of unusual shipments we’ve sent across the world in Part I of this series here.

For news on our latest Delivering for Good projects, follow us on LinkedIn. For a step-by-step guide on how to ship sensitive items or parcels that are tricky to pack, head here.
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