Ralph and Norton, two males, were delivered first, followed by two females, Alice and Trixie, a year later. What names they were given by their parents in whale shark language is unknown.
The whale sharks each measured between 11-16 feet in length and weighed about 2,000 pounds. Although they needed to be carried by air, it was soon realised that the sharks wouldn’t fit into economy class. So how was this unusual cargo transported?
From UPS, with tanks
The trip required two custom-build tanks, measuring 8 feet by 24, which with the weight of the water and the whale sharks would exceed 50,000 pounds. The tanks came with marine life support systems and a lab that enabled monitoring. While a Boeing 747 plane can carry up to 120,000 pounds in weight, it needed to be distributed over the plane’s point of balance, which is over its main gear.
The trip was time-sensitive situation, as the whales would naturally foul up the water. The plane also needed to make a stopover in Alaska for an official inspection before it would be allowed into the U.S.
As an entire operation, it was incredibly complex, but the UPS team managed to pull it off and the whale sharks were delivered to their new home.
Just a small donation
It seems unusual that UPS would shoulder the cost of such an expensive enterprise—but had UPS not donated the transport, costs would have ratcheted up for the Aquarium, to hundreds of thousands and potentially millions of dollars.
The same team also transported two beluga whales from Mexico City, which are even heavier than whale sharks at up to 3,500 pounds. UPS also helped FEMA in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and took the Terracotta Army on tour around the world in 2009.
You can read the full adventures of Bland Matthews, the UPS worker who helped to co-ordinate these deliveries, over at Priceonomics.
For deliveries that aren’t quite so live and flipping, get discounts on international delivery for all major carriers, including UPS, with Transglobal Express.
(Image credits: Christian Jensen, Warren Lynn under a Creative Commons 2.0 license.)