The 1997 San Diego incident is the name given to a short-lived but influential crisis which occurred in San Diego, California in the early morning of February 23, 1997. It is generally considered to be the immediate aftermath of the 1997 Isla Sorna incident. This event involved an adult male Tyrannosaurus rex and its son being transported to San Diego from Isla Sorna; the adult animal was accidentally released into the city streets and caused damage to person and property. This incident was the first public revelation of de-extinction as a reality.
In 1993, the attempted de-extinction theme park Jurassic Park on Isla Nublar was sabotaged in an act of corporate espionage perpetrated by a disgruntled International Genetic Technologies employee. As a result, multiple InGen employees were killed by escaped animals and the Park was deemed a lost cause. With the failure of this venture, InGen sought to depose its CEO Dr. John P. Hammond; this was accomplished in early 1997, following a lawsuit from the family of an injured British tourist who had landed on Isla Sorna the previous December. Hammond’s nephew, Peter Ludlow, assumed the position of CEO following Hammond’s deposition and enacted a long-standing plan to retrieve animals from Isla Sorna (located west of Isla Nublar) to complete the original Jurassic Park located in San Diego.
Hammond had organized a second team to go to the island and create a documentary of the animals to win over the public. The plan was to show the footage before Ludlow could bring the animals into the Park, thus getting the public to oppose the idea of the animals being in captivity. Ludlow’s operation was sabotaged by one of Hammond’s team members, ecological activist Nick Van Owen, who freed the captured animals and prevented the trophy killing of a male tyrannosaur. Eventually, this tyrannosaur and its offspring were recaptured by Ludlow’s team in a desperate attempt to save the company from bankruptcy. The infant was flown off the island by jet, while the adult was loaded onto the S.S. Venture and transport commenced to San Diego.
The infant was heavily sedated and muzzled, held at the Jurassic Park: San Diego facility under watch of InGen Security. Ludlow left for the harbor where the Venture would be arriving, preparing for publicity as reporters and other members of the public gathered.
While en route to San Diego, the tyrannosaur slipped into a coma due to a carfentanil overdose. To save its life, InGen personnel on the ship administered naltrexone to counter the tranquilizing effects of the carfentanil. Not knowing the proper dosage to give the animal, they set it into a hyperactive state. Much of what is known about what happened on the Venture has been determined from the resultant damage. It appears that, after escaping the confines of its cage due to an accident involving an onboard vehicle, the animal violently attacked the crew, killing several personnel including the ship’s captain. It entered the ship’s cargo hold, and while it was inside, a mortally-wounded crew member closed the cargo hold doors. The Venture, its surviving crew unable to recover in time, continued its course toward the InGen waterfront complex in western San Diego at flight speed.
At the ship’s destination, Ludlow spoke to a crowd of reporters, stockholders, and InGen personnel about the upcoming opening of Jurassic Park. Hammond’s team members Drs. Ian Malcolm and Sarah Harding were permitted entry by InGen Security guard Hampton. During Ludlow’s presentation, he was informed by a harbor employee of the Venture‘s unusual behavior; they were unable to get a response from the ship, which was still approaching the harbor dangerously fast. The ship entered the harbor at flight speed and collided with the dock, damaging a significant amount of property including the truck that was going to be used to transport the animal.
The collision of the Venture with the InGen harbor complex is generally seen as the beginning of the San Diego incident.
Sunday, February 23, 1997
- InGen-owned transport vessel S.S. Venture 5888 collides with the dock at its intended destination (the InGen waterfront complex in San Diego, California), causing massive property damage. It is currently not known if any harbor workers or members of the public were injured or killed during the collision.
- InGen CEO Peter Ludlow investigates the ship’s deck along with InGen Security members as well as Drs. Ian Malcolm and Sarah Harding. Berner, a member of InGen Security, located the remains of several of the Venture‘s crew, including the hand of the captain inside the wheelhouse. Damage to parts of the ship, including the cargo bay doors, was noted in addition to the bodies of crew members. Ludlow orders the inspection of the cargo bay to search for surviving crew, and as the doors are opened by Jerry Randall, the Tyrannosaurus is able to escape. It pursues the InGen staff, as well as Drs. Malcolm and Harding, off the Venture and proceeds through the security checkpoint. It encounters the edge of the city, an unfamiliar environment that likely confuses it.
- Drs. Malcolm and Harding gather information on what happened on the Venture from InGen Security guard Hampton, and the infant’s location from Ludlow. They reason that the tyrannosaur’s naltrexone overdose will cause it to become dehydrated and hungry, so it will be looking for a source of water and then food. Hampton provides Dr. Harding with a Lindstradt air rifle equipped with tranquilizer darts to subdue the animal with.
- The animal finds a source of water from a pool in the city suburbs, and feeds on a domestic dog. The inhabitants of the house, a boy named Benjamin and his parents, are among the first civilians to witness the tyrannosaur.
- Malcolm and Harding retrieve the infant tyrannosaur from Jurassic Park: San Diego in spite of protest from InGen Security on site. Their plan is to use the infant’s distress calls to lure its father back to the Venture‘s cargo hold, where both animals can be safely contained.
- The tyrannosaur finds itself in downtown San Diego, confused and aggravated by the alien environment; it was seen ramming vehicles and biting at stoplights. At least one death was caused directly by the tyrannosaur preying on a civilian, while many more injuries probably resulted from vehicular accidents.
- Malcolm and Harding have managed to get the tranquilized infant sober enough to make noise, which immediately captures the attention of its father. Parental instincts taking action, the adult begins to pursue the sound of its infant as Malcolm and Harding drive for the harbor. The San Diego Police Department and Animal Control respond to reports of a large animal causing panic in the city, but retreat when they witness what they have been called in to handle. A Eurocopter AS355 is dispatched to pursue the animal from the air.
- Ludlow orders the adult killed, while the infant is to be brought back unharmed. The SDPD helicopter receives the order and converges on the Venture, where Malcolm and Harding have led the adult after abandoning their car near the warehouses. Ludlow personally follows them to the ship, though the two of them jump overboard without the infant.
- The infant’s distress call draws both Ludlow and the tyrannosaur father into the cargo hold. Ludlow attempts to capture the infant, not realizing the adult had boarded the ship; he finds himself trapped. The father breaks his leg and allows its son to kill Ludlow, practicing hunting behaviors that will help it later in life.
- Dr. Harding tranquilizes the tyrannosaur before the helicopter from the SDPD has the chance to fatally shoot the animal. While it remains inside the cargo hold, Dr. Malcolm closes the doors and shuts both the adult and infant inside.
- With a U.S. Navy escort, the Venture is removed from San Diego and returns to Isla Sorna. A media frenzy occurs surrounding the event, but both animals are released back into the wild without incident. The return of the tyrannosaurs to their original habitat at approximately 11:30am CST is considered the end of the 1997 San Diego incident.
This incident brought the existence of de-extinction into the public eye, whereas it had only been rumor and conspiracy theory before. Once disgraced, Dr. Malcolm was viewed as a respected figure again, and was considered an authority on all things Jurassic Park-related by the general public for decades to come. The public reveal of de-extinction had a less positive effect on paleontologists such as Dr. Alan Grant, whose careers suddenly became overshadowed by the genetic experiments performed by InGen in the Gulf of Fernandez.
The San Diego incident, and subsequent return of the animals to Isla Sorna, was a major media event which set the stage for the public’s perception of dinosaurs. While many prominent figures considered the incident a nightmare scenario, others (even some eyewitnesses) felt sympathy for the animal taken from its home and plunged into a metropolitan area. Some, such as Eric Kirby and Claire Dearing, were inspired by the revelation that extinction could be reversed and that genetic engineering could create these animals. In the news broadcast which brought the incident to the world stage, John Hammond himself made an appearance urging the Costa Rican Department of Biological Preserves and the U.S. State Department to assist in protecting Isla Sorna’s unique artificial ecosystem by establishing rules and guidelines to regulate human activity there.
Hammond would pass away some time after the incident, leaving InGen in chaos. However, the incident did get the company publicity, especially coupled with Dr. Henry Wu‘s creation of the hybrid flower genus Karacosis wutansis not long after. A bidding war for InGen soon began, with the primary contenders being the Japanese company Tatsuo Technology and the Mumbai-based Masrani Global Corporation. The latter was headed at the time by Simon Masrani, the son of a close friend of Hammond’s. Masrani Global would finalize its purchase of InGen and all its assets in 1998, and within one hundred days of the merger, InGen activity on Isla Sorna resumed.
After the incident, Isla Sorna was listed as a restricted area by the United Nations; access was limited to select operations at the discretion of the Costa Rican government. The U.S. House Committee of Science passed the Ethical Negligence within Paleo-Genetic Resurrection Bill, better known as the Gene Guard Act, following the incident as well. This bill prohibited InGen from continuing genetic research or cloning new organisms, and obligated them to care for the life they had already created. Between late 1998 and early 1999, InGen clandestinely operated on Isla Sorna in violation of the Gene Guard Act, abandoning the site in 1999. The creation of new experimental species, some in large numbers, pushed the population of Isla Sorna far above a sustainable level and ultimately resulted in the island suffering an ecological collapse.
In the years following the incident, public interest in dinosaurs surged. Unfortunately, this did not necessarily equate to a rising interest in paleontology. Instead, as discussed above, the public ignored new developments in traditional paleontology in favor of learning more about the genetically modified creatures InGen had created. Illegal ecotourism occurred around Isla Sorna, with the most prominent example being the eight-week-long stranding of Eric Kirby on the island in the summer of 2001. Poaching within the Muertes Archipelago was also reported, leading to gruesome injuries on the mainland that are suspected to be caused by escaped animals captured by poachers and sold on the black market.
The following year, Masrani Global Corporation began construction on a third Jurassic Park on Isla Nublar; some of the herbivorous animals from that island were shipped to Isla Sorna for temporary storage, further hastening the collapse of the island’s ecology. The new park, called Jurassic World, was completed in 2004; throughout that year, the first few dinosaurs were moved from Isla Sorna to Isla Nublar. By 2005, Isla Sorna’s entire surviving population had supposedly been relocated; Jurassic World opened on May 30, 2005 to record numbers, and the public essentially forgot about Isla Sorna. According to all official sources, Isla Sorna is abandoned and empty; however, Masrani Global still owns the island, it is still a highly restricted area, and an unusual number of poaching vessels were apprehended in the Muertes Archipelago throughout 2014. The meaning behind all of this remains unknown.