March 14 is celebrated by
geeks, scientists around the world as Pi Day. As in the mathematical Pi. I decided to combine this event with a continuation of Canadian innovations and inventions.
I realize that this post may seem daunting because of its length. I believe that if you start to read it, though, you might just find it entertaining enough to read all the way through.
Troy James Hurtubise, was born on November 23, 1963.
Hurtubise is most commonly known for his bear suit. His obsession with bears began on August 4, 1984. That’s when, at twenty years old, he narrowly escaped a skirmish with a grizzly bear (he refers to him as “Old Man”) while he was hiking near Humidity Creek in central British Columbia.
When he returned home, he set about learning as much as he could about grizzly bears. He noticed that because of their fierce nature, it was difficult to study them without physical harm. While mulling this problem in his mind, he had enrolled in Natural Sciences at Sir Sandford Fleming College in 1987. In his dorm, he experienced an epiphany while watching RoboCop, which led to the Ursus series of protective suits. He decided to build a suit strong enough to survive a close encounter with a grizzly, while preventing any harm to the wearer.
Seven years and $150,000 later, he created the Mark VI robo-bear suit. He consulted with professors of physics on how to simulate a bear attack. He approached a tall, heavy biker and his colleagues, and paid them to attack him while he was wearing the suit. Both he and the suit survived attacks with baseball bats, splitting mauls, wooden two by fours, a swinging 300-pound log and even a fall off the side of an escarpment — the entire experience recorded as an NFB documentary “Project Grizzly“, and featured on Ripley’s Believe it or Not! TV program. The title is a moniker of his years of effort to develop protection suit technology, but it became more than just a suit capable of withstanding a bear attack.
The result was the suit he named the Ursus Mark VI at 145 pounds (65 kg), and the time came to test it in British Columbia. After the 1200-pound (545 kg) male Kodiak bear’s initial fear of the strange looking suit, it began tearing apart the chain mail. That’s when Hurtubise realized that using the less expensive butcher’s chain-mail instead of shark chain-mail was not the wisest decision he’d made. Not only that, but he found out that the bear was able to rip the helmet off of the suit.
That’s how the Ursus Mark VII was created, using a few more concepts and technologies that Hurtubise developed himself.
Troy Hurtubise became an instant celebrity. He appeared on many television programs, including Discovery Channel’s Daily Planet; he guest lectured at schools of all levels, including Harvard; he’s been interviewed on hundreds of radio programs; he’s been written about in countless magazines and newspapers; and he won the Ig Nobel for Safety Engineering in 1998.
Encouraged, he went on to create his Firepaste — a paste that, when it dries, is flame and heat resistant. The impetus for Firepaste came from a failed fire test with the Ursus Mark VII, where the metal exoskeleton heated up, popped the air bags, and left Hurtubise with many burns.
For a dramatic demonstration for the media and military in the summer of 2004, he made a thin mask of the material, put it over his face, and aimed a blowtorch of thousands of degrees directly at his mask. A thermometer showed no appreciable temperature change below the mask after ten minutes, and the integrity of the material remained strong.
Hurtubise kept the concoction’s ingredients a secret. However, during a segment aired on Daily Planet, he did reveal that one of the ingredients is Diet Coke!
Building on the success of the Firepaste, the next creation was the 1313 paste designed for the military. This new paste can withstand a direct assault by shotgun slugs, rifle fire, and enough explosives to demolish a car, yet is quite inexpensive to manufacture.
At a flamboyant demonstration, taped again by the Daily Planet, he displayed its capability to a Canadian military observer. The composite material was placed in cushions meant to be placed over the outside of a Humvee. The material successfully blocked explosive charges greater than those of a rocket propelled grenade, and was able to block shot after shot on exactly the same point of impact by a sniper rifle — a feat no military has matched in public demonstrations! The inspiration for 1313 was his younger brother serving in the Canadian military. Hurtubise hoped his invention would be put in service in Afghanistan.
Setting thoughts on the creation of products for military use, Hurtubise next designed what he called the Angel Light. It’s a large device he claims can allow people to see through objects, detect stealth aircraft, see into flesh, and disable electronic devices. The device, he said, came to him in a series of three dreams, so that he was able to built it from memory rather than from schematics.
After testing the device on his own hand, he claims he could see blood vessels and muscle tissue as clearly as if the skin had been pulled back. But the beam caused numbness and he began to feel ill. He also claims that he could read the license plate on his car in the garage from his workshop, and even see the road salt on it. He said that he had tested the device covertly with the help of scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
But after he discovered its harmful effects, he dismantled it.
I know this post is longer than usual, and I’m sorry about that, but believe me, it is worth your while to keep reading.
In early 2007, he made public his new protective suit which was designed to be worn by soldiers. Calling it the Trojan Ballistics Suit of Armour, he described it as a 40-pound suit that can withstand bullets from high powered weapons. This time he could not show his suit’s capabilities because no one was willing to shoot him in it!
Other features of the suit are a knife and gun holster, solar powered air system, air conditioned helmet, recording device, and compartments for morphine and salt. He estimated the suit would cost about $2,000 if mass produced.
By early February, he had failed to receive any offers to buy the Trojan. He was bankrupt and had no money to sustain his family. So he decided to put the prototype up for auction on eBay. But the auction’s reserve bid was not met, so he removed it from the site.
Still in need of money, he decided to hold a raffle for the suit on the Mission Trojan website. He was hoping this would also pay for further prototypes and testing. The suit was won by Sara Markis of Florida, who re-donated it back to Hurtubise, so that he could work on his next prototype.
And sure enough, the money raised from the raffle was used to finance the Trojan S type model. The new model purports to be lighter, tougher, more flexible, cheaper to produce, and provide more complete body coverage than any other type of armour anywhere.
Hurtubise wrote the book White Tape: An Authentic Behind the Scenes Look at Project Grizzly, available at Amazon.ca, but be forewarned, it’s not cheap! For another book, that’s more affordable, you can read Bear Man, The Troy Hurtubise Saga. Internet Archive Way Back Machine has a snapshot of the eBay auction page. and there are many videos to watch on YouTube.
This post is long, indeed, but there are still many details I did not include. I have a few site you can visit to learn more about Troy Hurtubise. Wikipedia has a page about Hurtubise and one about Project Grizzly. You can learn more at eTube – a site with educational videos. There’s an interesting article at Improbable Research, and another one at Sideroads of Almaguin and North Bay.