HotAIR - Troy's New Bear Suit


Troy's New Bear Suit

Another triumphant technological leap

by Alice Shirrell Kaswell, AIR staff

Troy Hurtubise (in black trenchcoat, left) with the sleek, new, Mark VII version of his suit of armor.

[This report was posted May 8, 2002]

There is a double helping of Troy news. Troy Hurtubise has completed the basic work on a new, super-advanced grizzly-bear-proof suit. And a few weeks from now, he will put the New Suit to a Big Test.

Troy managed to complete the new invention despite having to devote much of his time and energy to other, unrelated, advanced research and development projects. Troy is the winner of the 1998 Ig Nobel Prize in the field of Safety Engineering. His Ig citation reads:

Troy Hurtubise, of North Bay, Ontario, for developing, and personally testing a suit of armor that is impervious to grizzly bears. [REFERENCE: "Project Grizzly", produced by the National Film Board of Canada.]

Here are details, from a recent edition of Troy's home town newspaper, the North Bay Nugget:

Hurtubise Builds New Suit

by Phil Novak
The Nugget

North Bay, Ontario -

Troy Hurtubise has just completed the Ursus Mark VII, and he says his new bear suit is strong enough to withstand the controlled attack by a 585-kilogram Kodiak planned for June at an undisclosed location. Hurtubise was supposed to have gone up against the same Kodiak last December wearing the Ursus Mark VI made famous in Project Grizzly.

But things turned out differently than expected. The animal's owner, concerned about the size mismatch - the bear measures three metres when upright, and weighs 450 kilograms more than the besuited Hurtubise -- would not allow the Kodiak to attack.

"He also told me he believed the Mark VI wouldn't hold up to the enormous pressure the bear would have exerted and that he would have just ripped through the chain mail," Hurtubise told The Nugget. "So I went back home to North Bay determined to build a new suit that would be Kodiak-proof."

Having succeeded Hurtubise will officially unveil the 67.5 kilogram suit Tuesday, May 7 at Toronto's Nathan Phillips Square, to promote The Seen, a Comedy Network television program he will guest-star in.

With an investor's backing, Hurtubise has spent the last three months building the Mark VII in his basement, using common tools, an acetylene blow torch, and one tonne of high-grade scrap metal from North Bay Salvage.

Hurtubise's Mark VII eliminates the chain mail and is made from stainless steel, heavy-gauge aluminum, and cast titanium - as opposed to the Mark VI, 45 per cent of which is high-tech plastic. It is far more flexible too and allows lateral movement.

The Seven also features a built-in video screen, a cooling system, pressure-bearing titanium struts, advanced protective airbags, shock absorbers, fingered hands, swivel shoulders and built-in arms. Because the upper body splits open Hurtubise can put it on like a shirt, he said.

Looking like a Star Wars storm trooper/Battlestar Galactica Cylon hybrid, the Mark VII was built without blueprints, diagrams, or schematics.

"I'd look at a piece of metal and say 'there's my head, or my foot, or whatever,' and then just start shaping it," he said.

"But because there are no drawings, the right hand, for example, looks differently than the left, because when I did the left hand I couldn't remember how I did the right. So I wouldn't be able to make an identical copy of this suit if you paid me."

Hurtubise estimates he's put in over 1,600 hours on the project.

"There were times I was so tired I'd take a bath and fall asleep in the tub for two hours and wake up in cold water," Hurtubise said, while lighting a cigarette with his trusty blowtorch.

"I also lost 10 pounds because I wasn't eating, and I'd probably be dead now if my wife hadn't kept yelling at me to come up for dinner. Those 21-hour days are killers, but it's been worth it."

The building process, as Hurtubise describes it, sounds almost medieval.

Clutching a slab of metal with a pair of pliers, Hurtubise would heat it until it was hot enough to bend. Then he'd whack the piece with a 2.5 kg hammer until it achieved the shape he wanted.

"I went through 18 pairs of pliers that way because they'd snap from all that pressure," Hurtubise said. "I must have made 20,000 strikes in all."

The pounding has taken a toll on his hands, Hurtubise adds.

Troy Hurtubise in the older, Mark VI version of his suit of armor. (Photo courtesy of the National Film Board of Canada)

"They're curled up in the morning and I have to soak them in hot water for an hour before they uncurl."

As well Hurtubise had to take the safety mechanism off his grinder to reach parts inside the suit, occasionally cutting himself to the bone.

"I've never been hurt inside any of my suits, but I've certainly spilled a lot of blood building this one," he said, showing his scarred knuckles and fingers.

Next Hurtubise will don the suit to test it against a 20-tonne front end loader.

Hurtubise, who is developing, said he'll retire the Mark VI and use the Mark VII in his longtime quest to test bear sprays and conduct close-encounter bear research.

"It's the science I'm interested in," Hurtubise said.

"I want to find out what the trigger hormone is that sends a bear into hibernation, and also help biologists be the first to record the birth of a grizzly cub in the wild, something that's never been done before. And now this suit will help me do all that."

But Stephen Herrero, director of the Eastern Slopes Grizzly Bear Project, in Banff, Alberta, and one of the world's leading grizzly bear authorities, believes Hurtubise should leave science to the scientists.

"He's got a lot of drive and a different set of credentials. He's an inventor, not a researcher, although he could obviously do preliminary testing," said Herrero, professor emeritus at the University of Calgary.

At the same time Herrerro, who has corresponded with Hurtubise over the years, gives him high marks for developing the Ursus Mark VII, and said it would be useful in the study of grizzly bear behaviour.

"We want to see how they react to people yet have complete protection to be able to get close enough to find out," said Herrero, author of Bear Attacks: Their Causes and Avoidance.

Herrero also said he'd be more comfortable with Troy using the suit to help a team of scientists rather than conducting research himself.

"If he's got the right suit," Herrero said, "then we have the right tests."

We at the Annals of Improbable Research eagerly await news of Troy's test against the 585-kilogram Kodiak planned in June at the undisclosed location, and wish Troy every ounce of success and luck possible.

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