Last year, CNN aired a special called Dinosaur 13. It’s about the largest and most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex ever found and the US government seized her because they claim she was stolen from federal land. It was an engrossing documentary to watch and I wanted to highlight it in case you or someone you know is interested in dinosaurs.
The T-Rex in question was named Sue after Susan Hendrickson’s discovery. She was helping the Black Hills Institute of Geological research look for fossils and stumbled upon what she thought could be a great discovery. The Black Hills Institute indeed found a precious fossil and began excavating. You might be wondering on who’s land they were on, the rancher, Maurice Williams, gave them permission to dig anywhere on his land. So you can imagine how the team must have felt during their discovery. In the end, they offered Williamson $5,000 for the fossil which was the highest amount ever paid for bones at the time. Williams agreed to the purchase and the Black Hills Institute offered to draw up a contract, but Williams declined saying it was a gentleman’s agreement (or something along those lines). In any event, Black Hills Institute had video footage of Williams’ agreement. Fast forward a few months later, and the FBI come to the institute’s headquarters with a court order and began to seize everything (their research, fossils, etc). The government basically said the Institute illegally took Sue and began the process of charging them on criminal activity. I won’t go into huge detail because it’s a documentary you really need to see, but what struck me was how unreal the whole situation was. This is what I find appalling:
1. Williams’ initial agreement to sale and then backtracking that the Institute robbed him of money. I don’t know if the check was ever presented in court, but he took the money and cashed it! He’s seen on camera more than once agreeing to the sale. Why didn’t he give the money back to the Institute?
2. This really angers me-the dinosaur went up to auction for almost $8 million and Williams got to keep the money TAX FREE! Why he was never charged by the government for selling something that wasn’t his? If the land was held in trust and he was the so called “caretaker” then in theory he had no right to sell anything off the land. Again, why wasn’t he charged and why was he allowed to keep the money?
3. It saddens to me to hear that the initial members of the Institute who discovered and excavated Sue weren’t invited to the exhibit in Chicago. The world wouldn’t know about her had it not been for the Institute. And if you’re wondering-she’s beautiful! If you ever find yourself in Chicago, go visit her at the Field Museum.
In the end, what saddens me the most is the research the Institute lost. I can’t imagine the amount of money they spent on legal teams and I’m surprised they were still able to function as a company even after this entire mess. One thing Dinosaur 13 made me appreciate was the hard word that these individuals go through to bring these creatures to life.
Have you seen Dinosaur 13? If so, what were your thoughts?