Alan Grant, a famous paleontologist, is excavating fossilized dinosaur nests at a dig site in Snakewater, Montana. The site was formerly the shoreline of a great inland sea that spanned from the Rocky Mountains to the Appalachians eighty million years ago. Grant and his paleobotanist colleague, Ellie Sattler, meet with Bob Morris of the Environmental Protection Agency. Morris is investigating some suspicious activities on the part of the Hammond Foundation, an important source of funding for Grant's research.
Recently, the Hammond Foundation has been sponsoring only cold-weather dinosaur digs, has built the largest stockpile of amber in the world, and has leased an island off Costa Rica, Isla Nublar, for use as a biological preserve. Morris also has learned from the Office of Technology Transfer that InGen, Hammond's company on Isla Nublar, has been gathering extremely powerful computer and gene sequencing technology. This suspicious behavior has the EPA concerned that InGen may be engaging in irresponsible genetic engineering activity in Costa Rica, and causes Morris to recall a small rabies outbreak the Biosyn Corporation had caused in Chile several years before. Grant explains that, years ago, InGen had asked him to act as a consultant regarding the eating habits of baby dinosaurs. Morris leaves and Grant and Sattler have a good laugh, not being able to imagine John Hammond, a goofy old man who likes dinosaurs, as some sort of villain.
Alice Levin, the lab technician at Columbia University, faxes Grant an x-ray of the remains of the lizard that bit Tina. Grant and Sattler are stunned to see that it is actually a dinosaur. They think it is likely a Procompsognathus but wonder whether it could be a hoax. They discuss the possibility of an animal from the Triassic period, 220 million years ago, surviving undiscovered. Just then the phone rings and it is Hammond, who tries to convince Grant to visit his biological preserve on Isla Nublar. Grant is reluctant, explaining that he wants to pursue this discovery of a living procompsognathid—which greatly interests Hammond—but gives in when Hammond offers $60,000 each to Grant and Sattler.
In San Francisco, Donald Gennaro, InGen's lawyer, is discussing John Hammond with his boss, Daniel Ross. Between the EPA investigation, workers dying in Costa Rica, and the lizard attacks, InGen's investors are getting nervous. InGen instructs Gennaro to investigate Isla Nublar along with Grant, Sattler, and another consultant, a mathematician named Ian Malcolm. Gennaro calls Grant and requests the location of the procompsognathus remains, supposedly so that he can have it sent to them while they are on the island.
Grant and Sattler receive what appear to be architectural plans for Isla Nublar. The island seems to consist of a resort and a giant zoo, which is fortified in a strangely extensive manner. They return to the dig site, where they are trying to cover up the skeleton of an infant velociraptor before leave for Costa Rica. Though a full-grown velociraptor weighed only two hundred pounds, it was a quick and intelligent predator that hunted in packs and killed its prey with a six- inch-long, single-toed claw.
As Gennaro leaves the InGen office, Ross tells him that if anything is wrong with the island he should "burn it to the ground." Gennaro gets on Hammond's plane and the two exchange pleasantries. Hammond says that his island is nearly ready and that he has fifteen species of animals. Gennaro recalls his early work with Hammond, rounding up investors for InGen. He remembers the nine-inch elephant Hammond used to carry around to fund-raising meetings. It was a mean little elephant, rodent-like in size and demeanor, but it helped them raise $870 million from people hoping to exploit the emerging technology of bioengineering.
Grant and Sattler wait at an airfield for Hammond's plane, thinking how much they despise having to raise the money for their research. In the plane they meet Gennaro, whom they both dislike.
The board of directors of the Biosyn Corporation is having an emergency meeting at their headquarters in Cupertino, California. Lewis Dodgson, a reckless geneticist, is the head of product development at Biosyn, which essentially means he steals competitors' products in order to make his own versions based on the originals. He explains to the board that InGen is building a zoo for cloned dinosaurs on Isla Nublar and that he has a possible way of pilfering their dinosaur DNA. He asks the directors if he should proceed with his plan, and they all nod their heads.
Dodgson meets with his inside man from InGen at the San Francisco airport. He gives the man half his money, $700,000, and says he wants fifteen embryos, not just DNA. He gives the man a Gillette Foamy shaving cream canister with a secret coolant compartment that will be used to transport the embryos. The man says he will turn over the embryos to a boat that should wait for him on the east dock of the island.
Hammond's plane picks up Dr. Ian Malcolm, a confident and chatty member of the computer-savvy, nonlinear-equation-based mathematical vanguard who is dressed entirely in black clothes. Malcolm makes a pass at Sattler and hands out a paper explaining why he thinks Isla Nublar is doomed. He says that, according to a new mathematical field called chaos theory, Hammond's island will quickly begin to behave in an unpredictable manner, despite the precautions that have been taken.
The plane reaches San José where the group disembarks and boards a helicopter. They pick up Dennis Nedry, a fat and impolite computer technician, and fly to Isla Nublar, a mist-shrouded, hilly, and rugged island that has been formed by upthrusting volcanic rock. After a precarious landing, Ed Regis meets the group, who get their first glimpse of a living dinosaur.
They have arrived at Jurassic Park. Ellie looks at the brontosaurus and thinks that it is more graceful than any depiction of the species she has ever seen in a book. The creature trumpets like an elephant and then three more dinosaurs appear. Gennaro thinks that the dinosaurs will make him rich. Grant observes the animals, thinking that they are moving faster than they are supposed to. Two more appear and they remind Grant of giraffes.
In these chapters Crichton abandons the novel's initial sense of hinting and mystery by filling us in outright that InGen is indeed hiding some dangerous secrets. The protagonists and antagonists are now more clearly identified. Although several characters and settings are introduced in this section, the bulk of the narration takes place from the perspective of Grant. He is the only paleontologist on Isla Nublar, and thus, presumably, knows more about the dinosaurs than anyone else there.
While Morris visits with Grant and Sattler, his comments about gene-splicing equipment and Hammond lead us to believe that Isla Nublar is home to a shady genetic engineering lab. When Morris recalls an outbreak of rabies in Chile caused by an American biotech company, we recall Tina's father being concerned about her catching rabies from her lizard bites. Though the nervous discussion between Gennaro and Ross indicate that there could be something to fear from Hammond's operation with InGen, the mystery seems a little less ominous once the reader discovers that Hammond has been engineering dinosaurs rather than some sort of deadly lizard-virus. Instead, Dodgson and the Biosyn Corporation, who are responsible for the rabies outbreak in Chile, take on the role of lead villain at this point. Although he is never named, process of elimination leads us to believe that the man Biosyn has hired to steal embryos from InGen is Nedry. Nedry thus becomes the novel's primary antagonist.
There is little outright conflict at this point in the novel. Once we know that a dinosaur has in fact been biting children in Costa Rica, that mystery is solved. Grant is now the main character, but it does not appear as if Nedry's theft would have any effect on Grant, as the paleontologist has no real stake in InGen. The issue that emerges now, however, is the safety and success of Isla Nublar itself. Gennaro and Ross's discussions are obviously skeptical speculation. Grant, Sattler, Malcolm, and Gennaro are all visiting the island to evaluate it and say whether or not they think it will work. We can see Malcolm's intense skepticism based on chaos theory, then, as a kind of prediction that Hammond's island cannot be controlled. Now that the group has all arrive, they will get a first-hand look at whether or not Malcolm is right.
Crichton maintains his bird-dinosaur blurring in these chapters. Morris says that Grant's dinosaur fossils look like chicken bones, while Grant describes procompsognathus as being about the size of a chicken and states that velociraptor was "as finely tuned as a bird." The reason for these comparisons do not become more until Grant and company have closer interaction with the dinosaurs on Isla Nublar, but even from their initial observations Grant and Sattler are obviously surprised at how deftly the dinosaurs move. At this point, the connection between birds and dinosaurs emphasizes that the creatures are not necessarily the lumbering beasts they are often depicted to be in popular culture.