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August 12 is the 224th day of the year (225th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 141 days remaining until the end of the year.
On this day in 1990, fossil hunter Susan Hendrickson discovers three huge bones jutting out of a cliff near Faith, South Dakota. They turn out to be part of the largest-ever Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton ever discovered, a 65 million-year-old specimen dubbed Sue, after its discoverer.
Amazingly, Sue’s skeleton was over 90 percent complete, and the bones were extremely well-preserved. Hendrickson’s employer, the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research, paid $5,000 to the land owner, Maurice Williams, for the right to excavate the dinosaur skeleton, which was cleaned and transported to the company headquarters in Hill City. The institute’s president, Peter Larson, announced plans to build a non-profit museum to display Sue along with other fossils of the Cretaceous period.
The Field Museum hired a specialized moving company, with experience in transporting delicate items, to move the bones to Chicago. The truck arrived at the museum in October 1997. Two new research laboratories funded by McDonalds were created and staffed by Field Museum preparators whose job was to slowly and carefully remove all the rock, or “matrix” from the bones. One preparation lab was at Field Museum itself, the other was at the newly opened Animal Kingdom in Disney World in Orlando. Millions of visitors observed the preparation of Sue’s bones through glass windows in both labs. Footage of the work was also put on the museum’s website. Several of the fossil’s bones had never been discovered, so preparators produced models of the missing bones from plastic to complete the exhibit. The modeled bones were colored in a reddish hue so that visitors could observe which bones were real and which bones were plastic. The preparators also poured molds of each bone. All the molds were sent to a company outside Toronto to be cast in hollow plastic. Field Museum kept one set of disarticulated casts in its research collection. The other sets were incorporated into mounted cast skeletons. One set of the casts was sent to Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Florida to be presented for public display. Two other mounted casts were placed into a traveling tour that was sponsored by the McDonald’s Corporation.
Once the preparators finished removing the matrix from each bone, it was sent to the museum’s photographer who made high-quality photographs. From there, the museum’s paleontologists began the study of the skeleton. In addition to photographing and studying each bone, the research staff also arranged for CT scanning of select bones. The skull was too large to fit into a medical CT scanner, so Boeing’s Rocketdyne laboratory in California agreed to let the museum use their CT scanner that was normally used to inspect space shuttle parts.
Close examination of the bones revealed that Sue was 28 years old when she died, making her the oldest T. rex known. During her life this carnivore received several injuries and suffered from numerous pathologies. An injury to the right shoulder region of Sue resulted in a damaged shoulder blade, a torn tendon in the right arm, and three broken ribs. This damage subsequently healed (though one rib healed into two separate pieces), indicating Sue survived the incident. The left fibula is twice the diameter of the right one, likely a result of infection. Original reports of this bone being broken were contradicted by the CT scans which showed no fracture. Multiple holes in the front of the skull were originally thought to be bite marks by some, but subsequent study found these to be areas of infection instead, possibly from an infestation of an ancestral form of Trichomonas gallinae, a protozoan parasite that infests birds. Damage to the back end of the skull was interpreted early on as a fatal bite wound. Subsequent study by Field Museum paleontologists found no bite marks. The distortion and breakage seen in some of the bones in the back of the skull was likely caused by post-mortem trampling. Some of the tail vertebra are fused in a pattern typical of arthritis due to injury. The animal is also believed to have suffered from gout. In addition, there is extra bone in some of the tail vertebrae likely caused by the stresses brought on by Sue’s great size. Sue did not die as a result of any of these injuries; her cause of death is not known.
After the bones were prepared, photographed and studied, they were sent to New Jersey where work began on making the mount. This work consists of bending steel to support each bone safely and to display the entire skeleton articulated as it was in life. The real skull was not incorporated into the mount as subsequent study would be difficult with the head 13 feet off the ground. Parts of the skull had been crushed and broken, and thus appeared distorted. The museum made a cast of the skull, and altered this cast to remove the distortions, thus approximating what the original undistorted skull may have looked like. The cast skull was also lighter, allowing it to be displayed on the mount without the use of a steel upright under the head. The original skull is exhibited in a case that can be opened to allow researchers access for study. When the whole skeleton was assembled, it was forty feet (twelve meters) long from nose to tail, and twelve feet (four meters) tall at the hips.
30 BC – Cleopatra VII Philopator, the last ruler of the Egyptian Ptolemaic dynasty, commits suicide, allegedly by means of an asp bite.
1099 – First Crusade: Battle of Ascalon Crusaders under the command of Godfrey of Bouillon defeat Fatimid forces led by Al-Afdal Shahanshah. This is considered the last engagement of the First Crusade.
1121 – Battle of Didgori: the Georgian army under King David the Builder wins a decisive victory over the famous Seljuk commander Ilghazi.
1164 – Battle of Harim: Nur ad-Din Zangi defeats the Crusader armies of the County of Tripoli and the Principality of Antioch.
1323 – Signature of the Treaty of Noteborg between Sweden and Novgorod (Russia), that regulates the border between the two countries for the first time.
1480 – Battle of Otranto: Ottoman troops behead 800 Christians for refusing to convert to Islam.
1499 – First engagement of the Battle of Zonchio between Venetian and Ottoman fleets.
1624 – The president of Louis XIII of France’s royal council is arrested, leaving Cardinal Richelieu in the role of the King’s principal minister.
1676 – Praying Indian John Alderman shoots and kills Metacomet, the Wampanoag war chief, ending King Philip’s War.
1793 – The Rhône and Loire (Lêre) départments are created when the former département of Rhône-et-Loire is split into two.
1806 – Santiago de Liniers re-takes the city of Buenos Aires after the first British invasion.
1851 – Isaac Singer is granted a patent for his sewing machine.
1877 – Asaph Hall discovers the Mars moon Deimos.
1883 – The last quagga dies at the Artis Magistra zoo in Amsterdam.
1898 – An Armistice ends the Spanish-American War.
1898 – The Hawaiian flag is lowered from Iolani Palace in an elaborate annexation ceremony and replaced with the flag of the United States to signify the transfer of sovereignty from the Republic of Hawai’i to the United States.
1914 – World War I: the United Kingdom declares war on Austria-Hungary; the countries of the British Empire follow suit.
1944 – Waffen SS troops massacre 560 people in Sant’Anna di Stazzema.
1944 – Alençon is liberated by General Leclerc, the first city in France to be liberated from the Nazis by French forces.
1952 – The Night of the Murdered Poets: 13 prominent Jewish intellectuals are murdered in Moscow.
1953 – Nuclear weapons testing: the Soviet atomic bomb project continues with the detonation of Joe 4, the first Soviet thermonuclear weapon.
1953 – The islands of Zakynthos and Kefalonia in Greece are severely damaged by an earthquake measuring 7.3 on the Richter scale.
1960 – Echo 1A, NASA’s first successful communications satellite, is launched.
1964 – South Africa is banned from the Olympic Games due to the country’s racist policies.
1964 – Charlie Wilson, one of the Great Train Robbers, escapes from Winson Green Prison in Birmingham, England.
1969 – Violence erupts after the Apprentice Boys of Derry march in Derry, Northern Ireland, resulting in a three-day communal riot known as the Battle of the Bogside.
1976 – Between 1,000 and 3,500 Palestinians are killed in the Tel al-Zaatar massacre, one of the bloodiest events of the Lebanese Civil War
1977 – The first free flight of the Space Shuttle Enterprise.
1977 – The Sri Lankan riots of 1977, targeting the minority Sri Lankan Tamil people, begin, less than a month after the United National Party came to power. Over 300 Tamils are killed.
1978 – The Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Japan and the People’s Republic of China is signed.
1980 – The Montevideo Treaty, establishing the Latin American Integration Association, is signed.
1981 – The IBM Personal Computer is released.
1982 – Mexico announces it is unable to pay its enormous external debt, marking the beginning of a debt crisis that spreads to all of Latin America and the Third World.
1985 – Japan Airlines Flight 123 crashes into Osutaka ridge in Gunma Prefecture, Japan, killing 520, to become the worst single-plane air disaster.
1992 – Canada, Mexico and the United States announce completion of negotiations for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
1994 – Major League Baseball players go on strike. This will force the cancellation of the 1994 World Series.
2000 – The Oscar class submarine K-141 Kursk of the Russian Navy explodes and sinks in the Barents Sea during a military exercise.
2005 – Sri Lanka’s foreign minister, Lakshman Kadirgamar, is fatally shot by an LTTE sniper at his home.
2007 – The bulk carrier M/V New Flame collides with the oil tanker Torm Gertrud at the southernmost tip of Gibraltar, ending up partially submerged.
* Christian Feast Day:
* Herculanus of Brescia
* Pope Innocent XI
* August 12 (Eastern Orthodox liturgics)
* Glorious Twelfth (United Kingdom)
* HM the Queen’s Birthday and National Mother’s Day (Thailand)
* International Youth Day (International)
* The first day of Awa Dance Festival (Tokushima)