Dinosaur 13 (2014) Script




TERRY WENTZ: You go out in the field and you look up in the sky and you see the stars, and some of that light that's coming down to your eye has been traveling for millions of years.

So you look up and you're looking at the past, and then you look down, and you're looking at the past.

You know, those dinosaur bones are millions of years old, and that light left there, maybe at the same time that you're looking. lt's just you're kind of sandwiched in that world, and it's really... Really a wonderful place being out in a field.

LOUlE PSlHOYOS: lt was a brilliant story, l mean, if you didn't have to live it like the Larsons did.

lt's a good American tale.

Unfortunately, it had a bad ending for a couple of real brilliant paleontologists.

PETER LARSON: What does that white line mean, Susan?


PETER: We'd been digging at the Ruth Mason Quarry since 1979.

The 1990 season, I think we were into the third month.

We'd been working north...

Actually not working at the quarry itself anymore.

We were actually prospecting and looking for fossils.

We were looking for fossils on Sharky Williams' and his brother Maurice Williams' ranch, and finding some pretty cool stuff.

And we get up on August 1 2th, look outside the tent, and it's foggy. lt's kind of a weird thing to have fog on the prairie.

So we got a little bit later start.

We weren't in any big hurry because you couldn't see very well, and then went out to start loading up the Suburban.

We have a 1 975 Suburban, all rusted out.

And l look and the tire's flat. (CHUCKLES)

So l say, "Oh, crap." Well, almost flat. Still had a little bit of air in it.

So l go in the back to get the spare tire, and the spare tire's flat.

So l pull out the tire pump, and the tire pump hose is broken.

So we figure, "l guess we better...

"We better head into town

"while we still have enough air in the tire to get there."

WENTZ: We decided, "Well, we're gonna have to go to town."

You know, l'd been out there for four or five weeks.

Going to town, that's okay. l can take it easy for half an hour, an hour.

That's fine with me, but, of course, Susan...

Susan just can't handle that. You know, that's a waste of time, right?

SUSAN HENDRlCKSON: There was the flat tire. l said, "Great.

"You guys go to town. You don't need me. l've got this place l want to look at."

Out there, you need landmarks to find your way around.

And I said, "Okay, it's foggy. You can't see. Make sure you don't walk in a circle."

And two hours later, l was right back where l started, and l could not believe it. l just couldn't believe it 'cause l was, like, trying so hard to walk straight. lt was like... l felt really stupid.

l believe it was the next day when we went back with the video camera and just kind of reenacted, you know, how l found her.

Anybody who had any idea of what a fossil versus a rock was would have seen it

'cause there was a lot of broken bones dribbling down.

About eight foot up the side of the cliff, there were three articulated vertebrae and a couple of other pieces of bone sticking out.

From the debris pile, l picked up scraps that showed the hollowness and took it with, 'cause l knew if l went back to where they were working, they wouldn't believe me.

We got back after fixing the tire and we were at the dig site.

We were just finishing up doing stuff, and Susan comes up.

And she opens her hand, and she's got two pretty small pieces of bone, only about this big, in her hand.

And l'd never seen the inside of a T. rex vertebra before, but l knew exactly that was what she had in her hand, and l says, "ls there more of it?" She said, "There's a lot more."

So we ran, literally ran back to the site.


PETER: l crawl up on the cliff face and l see three articulated vertebrae, and from that point on, l'm absolutely certain this is gonna be the best thing we ever found and it's gonna be a complete T. rex.

NEAL LARSON: He called up and said, "Neal, l need you to bring a lot of plaster two-by-fours."

Well, it took me a day to get everything ready, and l came up, and l got up there with all these materials, and he took me over to this big cliff, and he said, "Take a look."

And l looked at it, and l looked at him. l said, "ls that T. rex?" He said, "Yes, "and l think it's all here."

And we haven't started digging or haven't moved anything around yet.

We've just been looking at it and taking some pictures and trying to figure out how to proceed.

There's a real mass of bones here. Some are caught up in concretion, but most appear to be really excellently preserved.

And l believe that the tail's going that way and the skull is going this way, but we're just gonna have to dig it up and see.

PETER: Collecting fossils is something that's very timely.

Fossils are discovered because they're weathering out, because the forces of nature, rain, winds, freezing, thawing, even snowfall, have an effect on that fossil.

Every day that it's outside is a day that it's going to destruction.

NEAL: We started by picking up all these thousands of fragments of bones and bagging them and labeling them.

WENTZ: Well, the plan of attack is to protect the specimen, first of all, and then you go above the specimen and dig down to it, so that you can get all the way around it to remove it from the cliff.

PETER: We basically used these ditch-digging tools, picks and shovels, to dig down that 30 feet from where l thought we could get back into the cliff face far enough to uncover what l thought would be the limits of that skeleton.

NEAL: Probably the hardest work l've ever had to do in my life.

We were doing this all in temperatures around 1 1 5 degrees every day.

PETER: lt was very hard work but it was very easy to put in a lot of energy into it because we all wanted to see what the skeleton was going to look like.

WENTZ: Basically, we'd take different sections, so we weren't in each other's way, and just kind of worked the specimen until we could start removing bones.

HENDRlCKSON: You know, and every time somebody found a bone or a fragment, theyjust said, "The 'S' bone."

We wouldn't say, "Skull." We didn't want to jinx it.

PETER: Pretty early on, l hit something hard, and so l stopped. (LAUGHS)

"lt's the 'S' word," l said, thinking, "l bet l hit the skull."

When l got down digging, and then started really working with the smaller knife, we found, as we were going down, is the back of the skull.

And we're getting down and here's this skull taking shape, and we get out on the side, and l put Terry to work on cleaning the side of the skull

'cause he's really our best preparator.

WENTZ: Pete let me work on part of the skull in the field, which was amazing.

PETER: He's working and uncovering the teeth one by one by one.

NEAL: lt was spectacular.

Teeth like this just sticking right out of the skull.

We're going, "Oh, my God. Look at this thing. Look how huge it is.

"This has gotta be bigger than the one at the American Museum.

"lt's huge. lt's wonderful."

We had started a long time ago naming particular dinosaurs, and the name Sue, for Susan Hendrickson, goes down in history, and l think that's kind of a cool way to reward those amateurs who make these discoveries.

WENTZ: We were all experienced diggers. You know, it was just a total focused effort.

We would just work into the specimen, remove things that we could, protect the rest of it, and then take it out of the ground and get it back into the laboratory, where you can have a more controlled environment to take care of the specimen.

NEAL: The amount of new things that we found and the amount of scientific information that we discovered while finding Sue was enormous.

PETER: Beautifully preserved, articulated skull, articulated vertebral column up to the pelvis with the tail and shoulder blade and all this stuff, and it's just like, "Holy cow." And wonderful preservation.

Just fantastic bones that were... Just beautiful surface on them.

NEAL: Every time we were ready to take a bone out or every time there was some new discovery, Pete would take this butcher paper out, and he mapped each and every bone, one on one, that we found that was excavated.

NEAL: Pete and l had quite a few discussions, "What would be fair?"

$5,000 is the most that anybody had ever given anyone for a dinosaur, for any fossil in the ground.

So Pete wrote a check out for him and a contract that he wanted Maurice to sign. l showed it to him, and he said, "We don't need to sign anything.

"This is something... A handshake between friends, "and the $5,000 is fine. I'm happy with that."

And, you know, that was the most that any landowner had ever gotten.

We shook hands, and he was pretty excited about seeing it set up in the museum.


Last phase of getting Sue out of the ground we used, basically, Egyptian techniques to get this large block. l mean, one of the blocks weighed probably something close to 10,000 pounds.

There was probably about 10 ton of material, total, that we had to load up.

NEAL: Once we had the skull and pelvic block and the tail vertebrae and everything else, we knew we could haul a lot of the stuff on our Bobcat trailer.

We had no idea how we were going to be able to get all these other things.

My brother John had built a tandem-axle trailer earlier that year.

PETER: With that and the other pickup truck that we had there, we were able to load the fossil up.

After we had built pallets underneath the fossil, we were able to scooch some plywood underneath 'em, so that we could move it with chains and come-alongs and get it into the trailers.

lt was and still is today the most exciting, the most wonderful excavation we have ever done, the most incredible thing we have ever done.


PHlL MANNlNG: Dinosaurs, for me, are still one of the most amazing creatures ever to have lived on the planet.

You're touching something that was alive

65, 100, or three or more hundred million years ago.

When you pick up a fossil, and you're the first ever human being to touch the remains of that organism, it's a remarkable feeling.

PHlLlP CURRlE: Dinosaurs are iconic animals.

They represent paleontology in general.

They represent science.

Dinosaurs lived for 1 50 million years, and they dominated the world for that long, and yet humans have only been around for three, four, or five.

What are our chances? We seem to be approaching these big problems.

VlNCENT SANTUCCl: Most of what is to be learned about the history of life is yet to be discovered.

What's still out there? What's still in the ground?

What some kids might find 1 00 years from now will contribute to that greater understanding.

PSlHOYOS: We know nothing about the history of the planet unless learning it through a paleontologist.

And it's that sense of deep time, real deep time, that gives you a sense of who you are and how you fit into the scheme of things.



PETER: I first fell in love with fossils when l was about four years old. l picked up this small tooth down on my folks' ranch.

From then on, l just was so fascinated with fossils. l just couldn't stop.

Every day that the weather was good and every day that the weather was great that was on a weekend, if we were going to school or in the summertime, Dad would always say, "Let's go out rock hunting."

PETER: We ended up starting this little museum, and we'd charge the adults in our family five cents.

We had little displays where we set up the things that we had collected.

Notjust fossils and rocks, but also what we thought were antiques.

We had this horrible hobby that started to captivate every part of our life.

PETER: Eventually l decided to really get into paleontology, and so went to the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City.

Junior year, we went to the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, and really saw how specimens are purchased by museums and purchased by private collectors.

And by the time we graduated, we started this business called Black Hills Minerals as this Earth science supply house.

Eventually my younger brother Neal, who was also a student at the School of Mines, and Bob Farrar, one of his classmates, started working with us as well.

BOB FARRAR: With the three ofus all going to the School of Mines, we were problems there because all of us chose not to go into industry.

NEAL: The first year was terrible, the second year was not so good, but it was sort of turning into a business.

PETER: As we kept going, we kept collecting more and more fossils and had the idea of, "lt probably would work to sell these as display specimens."

NEAL: ln 1978, we were going pretty strong.

We were selling mostly fossils.

We were going out and doing geological exploration.

PETER: So by 1979, we created this new entity called Black Hills Institute of Geological Research Incorporated in the center of the Black Hills.


HENDRlCKSON: I first met Pete Larson when I was in Peru. l was down there visiting my friend Kirby Siber, who was about to go out in the field and collect some fossil whales and, uh...

And he had asked Pete to come down to do that, and the three of us went.


PETER: l had known Susan Hendrickson for about five years before she found the dinosaur Sue.

And Susan was one of those volunteers who came to work at the Ruth Mason Quarry after we had met in Peru a number of years before.

HENDRlCKSON: My attraction to him was his expertise and his enthusiasm or passion for fossils, which l shared.

Pete is one of the best paleontologists around.

There's a few other people that might be at his level.

PETER: There was some romantic involvement at the time between Susan Hendrickson and l, although that was pretty much over.

That was sort of short-lived and we were, at this point, just friends.

And she was just having one more season of collecting before she was moving back to Seattle.

HENDRlCKSON: He had this whole other part of him, which was the lnstitute, and he had a lot of responsibilities.

And that part didn't interest me. l tried to help him, l commended him, but l didn't want any part of that in my life.

You know, l kept waiting for more field time, and he didn't like it if l went in the field by myself

'cause he wanted to go so bad. He didn't want me to go.


PETER: We got Sue back to Hill City.

We moved the big blocks into the warehouse, actually built a room around where we had put Sue.

Started working on this wonderful fossil.

WENTZ: When I was prepping Sue, I was cloistered like a monk in the back corner of the back building.

Doing preparation, you just... "Just leave me alone," right?

But everybody was in there. There would be school kids in there.

Or another day, there'd be some scientist guys coming along in there. l mean, Pete had, like, 30 scientists working on a major new monograph on Tyrannosaurus rex, so you got to suck it up. Pete wants it this way.

He wants this specimen available to everybody. lt was so beautiful.

Just the preservation was incredible. lt was just, "Wow."

Everybody knew about Sue.

We hadn't made any secret of the fact that we'd collected her.

PETER: We had 2,000 visitors sign this little guest book that went way in the back in our warehouse to see the skull of Sue.

CURRIE: l was just totally flabbergasted when l saw the specimen.

First of all, the size is just so imposing, but what l was more amazed by was what a greatjob they were doing preparing the specimen.

BlLL HARLAN: l'd heard inklings that the Black Hills Institute boys had found something.

One of the first things l saw was actually, you know, part of the skull of Sue still encased in matrix.

Sixty-five million years later, this animal really had the power to give you goose bumps.

To see the look on Pete's face and Neal's face.

Those guys were just like proud papas.

They would inform you. They would go do classes at school for the kids, so it was very educational for all of us. l learned a lot from that.

PETER: Eversince we created that little museum on our parents' ranch, it's always been our dream to have a museum here in Hill City.

And finding Sue the Tyrannosaurus rex, here's the anchor for the museum.

The whole town is behind us.

It's going to put Hill City on the map in a way that it's never been on the map before.

Didn't matter how many other projects we had going on.

With Sue, Sue took precedence.

PETER: We found out all kinds of cool things about this dinosaur.

Broken and healed bones all over the skeleton.

This animal had a terrible life, a terrible, rough life.

The skull of Sue actually had...

The left side of the lowerjaw had been literally ripped out of the socket, still held together here at the symphysis, where the two ends of the lowerjaw come together in the front, but it's been torn loose from the socket, which allows the jaw to open and close.

And the postorbital, the bone directly behind the eye, was broken and pulled outwards and laying at sort of a weird angle.

So I think that she actually died from the attack ofanotherTyrannosaurus rex.

WENTZ: That was a bigjob. l mean, it took me a year, literally a year, just to remove individual bones from around the skull, and then...

And then to take that, the giant hip bones, off of the nose.

PETER: We finally were able to lift the pelvis off of Sue's skull in the beginning of May 1 992.

Okay. Let's go.

-Up? -Let's go.

WENTZ: Taking that hip off of Sue's skull was critical to doing it right because you don't have a second chance.

-You okay there, Terry? -Oh !


WENTZ: lf you think of two big ships, you know, when you get those kind of weights going on, one little movement, you don't what's going on. lt could be cracking it all the way through inside.

-Okay, go. -Go.

Go, go, go, go, go, go.


Yeah. That must be where the weight is.

-Yep. -Yep.

-Okay, it's looking good. -We're free here.

-We're free here. -Oh, God.

What am l down to?

Hey, we're loose in the front finally!

-All right. -Yeah !


WENTZ: That moment, when we made that separation, that was probably the highest point of my life.

-How was that? -Champagne.

-Hide it. -(LAUGHS)

-Hide it. (LAUGHS) -(LAUGHTER)

There has to be a toast. Who do we toast?

This whole. . . l don't know.

-Cheers. -Just, "Cheers."

-You ready? -Ready.

-To Sue. -To old Sue.

-Sue. -Sue.


-(LAUGHS) -Yeah.

(LAUGHS) lt's very good champagne.

Look at this. l know.


NEAL: We were riding on top of the world.

We had everything going for us.

Less than a week after that, all hell broke loose.

Bob and I were downstairs. We were both in the prep lab.

We had a buzzer on our door, so that if anybody came in, it would buzz back in the prep lab and we could go meet them in the front office. lt was about 7:00 in the morning when the buzzer went off.


We were met by two FBl agents with a search warrant to take Sue and all records belonging to Sue.

FARRAR: They showed up expecting to seal off the building and keep anybody from going in.

"Just wait here. We have to get Pete."

They sent me to get Pete, and l was running.

PETER: I lived in a trailer house behind the Institute.

"The FBl's here. They're all over the place."

They've got yellow police tape around the main building.

NEAL: "Do not cross. Police line. Do not cross."

FARRAR: It was hard to know what was really happening at that point.

PETER: l go down to the office, and there's two FBl agents sitting there.

"You've stolen this from federal land, "and we're coming here to seize this."

PATRlCK DUFFY: l got a phone call from Peter Larson because it wasn't just the FBl. lt was personnel from South Dakota Tech, it was personnel from other federal agencies, and it was the National Guard.

HARLAN: The U.S. Attorney at the time, Kevin Schieffer, got reporters together in the Federal Building in Rapid City and announced that the seizure was ongoing.

The purpose of our action this morning is to preserve. . .

The scientific knowledge and integrity of these fossils.

Then, of course, the entire press corps hopped in their cars, and we drove to Hill City.

NEAL: They were supposed to take things related to Sue, but they took everything.

They went through all of our offices, all of our desks, all of our mail trays, taking mail opened, unopened.

WENTZ: Somebody called me and said, "The FBl's got crime scene tape around the Institute, and they're taking Sue." l hung up the phone, and l went as fast as I could down to the Institute. l don't know how many agents they had, 30-some people or whatever. lt was just insane.

I didn't even think about it. l grabbed the tape and l go under it. l just went to the specimen. That was my concern. l could just see these idiots, you know, just try to pack up my dinosaur and take it away and ruin it.

How dare they? How dare these people do this?

Unconscionable. l can't imagine somebody being able to do this here in the United States of America, in a free country.

ln order to ensure that this dinosaur could be carefully packed up, we helped. lt was pretty clear that they didn't know what they were doing.

WENTZ: These people didn't know anything. l mean, most of these guys hardly go out in the field at all.

What do they know about preparing a fossil or packing it or anything?

The Larsons were trying to do a little bit of negotiating.

"Put Sue under lock and key at our place to prevent damage." l said to Kevin Schieffer, "You just tell me, and that fossil won't go anywhere.

"lt's not like it's going to disappear in a briefcase."

That request was denied. lt is clearly a violation under the Antiquities Act to remove antiquities from United States lands without the permission of the United States.

The federal government doesn't show up with the National Guard and an Assistant or. . . Pardon me, an Acting United States Attorney in pancake makeup. . .

. . .with the intention of working things out somewhere down the road.

PETER: After we got over the initial shock, those of us who were packing the dinosaur kind of went into our packing mode, but towards the end of the day, it became obvious that something was going on with the town.

NEAL: People around town noticed.

They noticed all the cop cars. They noticed the police tape.

PETER: All of a sudden, there were people with signs out in front of our building. lt was clear that people were not happy with what was going on.

The protest developed very quickly, so there were a lot of people on the street.

PSlHOYOS: l was working for National Geographic, and we were gonna take the skull of Sue and put it into a CAT scan of what they use for the space shuttles to see if we could see inside the skull of Sue.

And Terry Wentz answered the phone and he said, "Well, l don't think so."

So I got on the next plane I could, and the place was surrounded by cops. l mean, you thought that there was a real T . rex loose on the property.

PETER: The next day in, they brought in reinforcements, a lot more people.

HAROLD SYKORA: The idea was that we were going to load this stuff up and haul it somewhere.

And when the Director of Military Support, one of the colonels, got down there, he called and said, "Hey, General, this is not what we expected. This is a media event.

"We got school kids out here.

"We got parents out here. What should we do?"

And l said, "Well, just go do it."

PROTESTORS: Save Sue! Don't be cruel ! Save Sue!

Don't be cruel ! Save Sue!

Save Sue! Save Sue!

All day long, the protestors kept arriving.

Protesting about what the government was doing.

PROTESTORS: (CHANTlNG) Save Sue! Save Sue!

Save Sue! Save Sue! Save Sue!

Shame on you !

Shame on you ! Shame on you !


PSlHOYOS: Kids protesting, adults protesting. lt was not the sort of public-relations event that, you know, law enforcement likes because they're taking away this T . rex from a very small town that really could use it.

PETER: On the third day, the National Guard had brought up large equipment, including forklifts and things, and the crowd had grown by this time.

Leave our Sue!

Leave our Sue! Leave our Sue!

PETER: People were so emotionally involved.

MARlON ZENKER: The amazing thing, to me, wasn't just us.

The whole town...

The entire town of Hill City