Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Sue Hendrickson is an American paleontologist. She was born in Chicago, Illinois and later moved to Munster, Indiana where she grew up. She now makes her home on the island of Guanaja and is best known for her constant, undying love of animals.

Hendrickson is best known for her discovery of the remains of a Tyrannosaurs rex in South Dakota on August 12, 1990. Her discovery was the largest specimen of a T. rex found and one of the most complete skeletons. This skeleton is now known as “Sue” in honor of her discovery. It is on display at the Field Museum in Chicago, Illinois. Hendrickson discovered Sue in 1990 on the Cheyenne River Reservation near the town of Faith, South Dakota. While her team (led by the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research and its leader Peter Larson) went into town, Hendrickson decided to explore the last of seven mapped outcrops. While the previous six yielded nothing of importance, Hendrickson discovered a few small bones that had fallen from outcrop 7. These bones led to the discovery of Sue, and the long custody battle that followed. After the U.S. government raided the institute in 1992, and after a long court battle, the ownership of the fossil was awarded to ranch owner Maurice Williams, who decided to auction them off at Sotheby's auction house. In October of 1997 this auction took place, with the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, Illinois placing the winning bid, which with auction fees ended up totaling $8.36 million dollars. In 1998 the Field began to publicly prepare Sue's bones, and on May 29th 1999 they unveiled a new exhibit-"Sue-The Inside Story." On May 30th 1999 Susan Hendrickson herself appeared at the museum to greet fans and discuss her finds.

She has also found other important fossils and artifacts around the world. In 1992, she joined a team of marine archaeologists headed by Franck Goddio. With them, she took part in many diving expeditions, the most notable of which were the Royal Quarters of Cleopatra, and Napoleon Bonaparte’s lost fleet from the Battle of the Nile.

In 2000, Glamour Magazine honored her in their "Glamour Woman of the Year Awards."
In 2003 she published an autobiography entitled Hunt for the Past: My Life as an Explorer. In 2008, she was on the Dare to Explore chapter of National Geographic Kids.

Susan does not seek out attention and never does speaking tours as she is somewhat shy and prefers to stay in the background. Her introduction into paleontology was a result of her extensive amber collection. For 3-5 years she collected amber in the Dominican Republic. She consulted many leading entomologists during her study of the specimens. This introduced her to paleontology. Also, she always loved to read and was pretty much self-taught. Her parents taught her that she could do anything she wanted to so she did!

When Sue is back home on Guanaja with her dog “Skywalker” she can be seen rushing around in her boat to care for sick animals, or caring for them in her home with a veterinarian from LaCeiba. Skywalker was not named for the star of “Star Wars”. She got her as a puppy and traveled with her a lot. Since she really wanted a name with a traveling theme, she considered a few suggestions leaning towards Skywalker which seemed to fit perfectly. Sky, as she is affectionately known, just celebrated her 14th birthday (see photo above) and Sue had a birthday party for her dog and all its friends. A special cake was created for the dogs out of meat and cheese while their human guests had plain old cake!

Susan is well known on the island for her efforts in spaying and neutering dogs and cats. She has clinics several times a year wherein the animals are spayed or neutered for free. She dispenses medicines for sick animals and cares for injured animals that are brought to her. She is undaunted in her quest to help animals which is quite evident when one is welcomed into her home by no less than a dozen dogs. She has two grown deer and two recent fawns. She does not hesitate to make sure that illegal Iguana hunters are picked up by the local law enforcers. She has several horses and, at one time, even took care of a lost Macaw.

She is a warm individual who has made many worthwhile contributions to the community of Mangrove Bight and the island of Guanaja. She is dedicated in her love of animals and the animals of Guanaja are lucky to have her at their beck and call.

Kudos to you, Sue, and thanks for all you’ve done.


  1. Sue sounds like such a wonderful, caring person. I hope I get a chance to meet her next time I am down in Guanaja.


  2. Wow! You got the reclusive Susan to sit still long enough to snap her picture? That, in itself is a major feat. But she's wonderful, isn't she? Gives so much to that island with so little in return. And always ready with a cold fresco or Salva Vida after that long climb up the hill from her boat dock.

    Nice story, Sharon. It's been long overdue.

  3. Sue's dedication is almost surreal, as is her zeal for dealing with the various miscreants she discovers mistreating, abusing and killing the various forms of local wildlife. I've said before "Thank you Saint Susan of Bonnaca."

  4. To Bob: Sorry, I didn't take the photo. Susan forwarded it to me on the occasion of Sky's birthday. But, yes, she is truly a dedicated and intelligent woman and very interesting to spend time with.

  5. Id like to meet her, animal lovers/scientists are my kind of people...

  6. Susan has been an absolute savior for the animals, and I've been happy to donate at times to help her be able to do her chosen job. Last spring, Canelo was attacked. Susan stitched him up and let him recuperate at her place. She was so nice and welcoming when we came by (almost daily) to visit him and check in to see how we were doing. And Canelo isn't really our dog--he just chooses to call Black Rock Cay his home and we get to visit with him when we're on the island. Hooray for Susan!