He even tested it by having a swinging 300-pound log hit him!
Troy Hurtubise is one of the most colourful Canadians in modern times. He was a dreamer, and he had a determination to see his visions come to life. He left us when he was only 54 years old, in a collision along Highway 17, between North Bay and Sturgeon Falls, that ended in an explosion.
He was an inventor and conservationist from North Bay, Ontario. He’s known for his “wacky” inventions, but also for demonstrating his inventions on himself, often in dramatic ways!
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 could 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; His 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 airbags 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 revealed that one ingredient 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 inexpensive to manufacture.
At a flamboyant demonstration, taped again by the Daily Planet, he displayed its capability to a Canadian military observer. He placed the composite material 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 could 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 it would put his invention 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 could build 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 someone had pulled the skin back. But the beam caused numbness, and he felt 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.
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 received no 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 held 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 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 armour anywhere.
His obituary says it all:
He will be forever remembered for his determined outlook on life, and his willingness to forge a path uniquely his own; a path without refute or deviation for an ultimate goal, a goal that, to him, was all there ever was. In life, Troy pursued many passions and adventures but settled for invention. Taking the quote by Albert Eisenstein as a personal motto, “Imagination is more important than knowledge” Troy used his imagination to create wonders that stunned the scientific community and wowed viewers across the world for many years, having appeared on dozens of television shows and talk shows. Troy was a man of tenacity and will, a master storyteller and historian. His hobbies were many as was his desire to learn about the world. He never stopped moving forward, no matter the odds against him. Troy was without give in his quest to achieve his dreams. “-But as long as a man has the strength to dream, He can redeem his soul and fly-“. Elvis Presley.
Jonathon Gribbons’ YouTube page has more videos featuring Troy Hurtubise, if you’d like to see more.