AHNIGHITO AND THE WOMAN MOVE TO MUSEUM ------------------------------------ John Pazmino NYSkies Astronomy Inc www.nyskies.org email@example.com 1979 October 1
The world's largest meteorite in captivity, the 34-ton Ahnighito, and its companion, the 3-ton Woman, were moved from the Hayden Planetarium to new exhibit quarters in the American Museum of Natural History on 6-13 September 1979. The two irons will form the centerpiece display in the Museum's new Arthur Ross Hall of Meteorites. The Planetarium was shut down on September 3rd for Gerosa Crane Service Co, a rigging firm from the Bronx, to prepare the meteorites for the move. A lattice gantry was erected over Ahnighito, sitting on its steel skid atop the fabled Toledo scale, and a hatchway was cut into the building's west wall. An H-beam track and wooden rollers were laid down from the scale, thru the hatchway, to the parking lot just outside. On Thursday 6 September all was ready for the first stage of the move. Under the lingering clouds of hurricane David, Gerosa's crane and flatbed truck were in position by the track. Inside, the gantry lifted Ahnighito, along with its skid, off the scale and set it down onto the rollers. Then the crane's frontend winch was attached to the skid. At 10:30 AM the winch was started up, the cables tensed, and Ahnighito slowly glided down the track out into the daylight. Meanwhile, the workmen were readying the main crane. Steel cables were run under the pallet and brought together at the top for hooking onto the crane. Heavy pads protected the meteorite from scuffing. Gently the crane hoisted Ahnighito from the rollers, swung it over the flatbed, and lowered it onto its rear deck. The entire process took no more than an hour and it was viewed by hardly twenty people from the press, the Museum, and the Planetarium. Another twenty or so spectators were curious passersby. The Woman, being only three tons, was easily picked off its stand in front of the souvenir counter and placed onto a heavy wooden pallet. Secured with rope and chain, The Woman was wheeled thru the corridor to the hatchway, where it, too, was lifted by the crane onto the trailer. The day's activities were concluded by bringing the trailer around to the front of the Planetarium and parking it there. At about 9 AM on Friday 7 September Ahnighito was unfastened from its pallet and carefully wrapped in padded chains. In the Ross Hall Ahnighito will repose on a "hand" whose six "fingers" must exactly fit the meteorite's contours. A jig of wood and pipe was fitted out by the Museum for measuring the finger lengths and this was at ready by the trailer. The crane was brought up and it lifted Ahnighito from the skid and held it suspended over the jig. It was securely tethered to the crane's bumper while Museum technicians crawled underneath to take their measurements. This done by about 11:30 AM, Ahnighito was replaced on its pallet and was chained down. A 24-hour guard (in shifts) was stationed at the trailer for the ensuing week of open public viewing. Thru all this The Woman rested quietly under a tarp at the front end of the trailer. During the next six days workmen were busy at the Museum's Southwest Tower getting things ready to receive the irons. Directly beneath the new Hall the basement floor was reinforced with a thick concrete pad from which sprang six heavy columns -- the six "fingers" of the new stand. These passed thru the ceiling and terminated at about knee height off the ground in the Hall. An old sealed-up door in the Tower's outer wall was broken thru and the H-beam and roller track from the Planetarium was set up, leading from the "hand" to the street outside. Other crews began dismantling the Toledo scale and repairing the wall at the Planetarium. At press time, no plans for using the now- vacant space have been announced. Thursday 13 September saw Gerosa truck the meteorites to the Southwest Tower via 81st Street and Columbus Avenue. By 10 AM everything was ready for the transfer into the Museum. The trailer was backed up to the Tower and the crane lifted Ahnighito onto the rollers. A drum winch set up inside and tied into the building's columns gently hauled Ahnighito down the track up to the exhibit stand. The Woman, too, was taken off the trailer by the crane, but it was brought to the exhibit area by forklift. On the 17th the gantry from the Planetarium was set up over the "hand" and used to hoist Ahnighito from the rollers. While it was positioned over the stand a special quick-setting cement was applied to each fingertip. Then quickly, but carefully, Ahnighito was lowered and settled into place. The Woman was similarly lifted off by its own, much smaller gantry, and placed onto a simple two-pedestal mount next to Ahnighito. The Arthur Ross Hall of Meteorites will be unveiled in fall of 1980. In the meantime, while construction moves apace, Ahnighito and The Woman will rest on their new stands under protective tarps.