An explorer and treasure hunter at heart, Sue Hendrickson has been a diver, amber miner, paleontologist, and conservationist just to name a few of her careers explorations.
As a teen she learned to dive in the waters of the Florida Keys where she and friends sold tropical fish to pet stores in the United States and Canada. In 1963, after establishing connections in the diving world, she was invited to be part of a salvage team which led her to exploring old shipwrecks in the area.
In the 1980s she was introduced to amber mining in the Dominican Republic and became one the world’s largest suppliers of amber samples for scientists and discovered three perfect 23-million-year-old butterfly specimens, which make up half of the whole world’s total collection. This introduction into the world of fossils inspired her to study paleoentomology and she became an expert at identifying fossilized insects. Spending the summers at an ancient sea bed in Peru with team of paleontologists she discovered fossilized seals, sharks, and dolphins.
Following up that expedition she worked with some of the same scientists at a dig in the South Dakota Badlands and on August 12, 1990 she made a huge discovery. Having a good understanding of how fossils are made, Hendrickson spotted a difference in the rock that turned out to be one of the bones of a Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton – the largest and most complete skeleton that had been found to date. Later named “Sue” in her honor the remains were of a 42 foot long 62 million year old T.Rex that scientists were able to use to gain great insights into the life of this long extinct predator.
Combining her love of searching for lost things and diving, Hendrickson switched to marine archeology taking part in many expeditions including exploring the Royal Quarters of Cleopatra, which had been lost to the sea over 1600 years ago.
Hendrickson now lives on Guanaja, an island off the coast of Honduras where she works to conserve its natural environment and important ecological sites.
Written by Angela Goad