IG NOBEL FOLLOW-UP--
When Troy Met a Kodiak Bear
Safety Engineering Prize Winner Puts Suit to the Test
[This report was posted December 12, 2001]
Troy Hurtubise is alive and well, and so is the Kodiak bear against which he was pitted.
On December 8, 2001, a day earlier than had been announced to the public, Ig Nobel Prize winner Troy Hurtubise went mano a ursus with a full-grown Kodiak bear. 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.]
So what happened? Here is an account from the December 11, 2001 edition of Troy's home town newspaper, the North Bay Nugget:
Hurtubise Against Kodiak
by Phil Novak
Troy Hurtubise looked so scary in his Ursus Mark VI suit that a 585 kilogram Kodiak took 10 minutes to approach him, while a 157-kg grizzly didn't want to, period.
Hurtubise, the North Bay inventor and star of Project Grizzly, climbed into his virtually indestructible body shell this weekend - exactly where was kept secret to keep the media at bay - because he wanted to test the suit against a real, live bear.
But things turned out differently than expected, with the Kodiak, owned by an American animal trainer, avoiding Hurtubise until it could muster the courage to approach him.
"The fear factor was staggering for the first 10 minutes," Hurtubise said.
"But when he realized he was much bigger and taller than me he started coming closer until he was within six inches and I could smell his breath through my helmet. When he was that close, I really got terrified and my heart was just pounding in my chest."
The trainer, concerned about the size mismatch - the bear measures three metres when upright, and weighs 450 kg more than the besuited Troy - would not allow the Kodiak to get any closer.
Although the controlled attack Hurtubise hoped for didn't take place, his suit was still bear-tested, and passed with flying colours, he said.
In order to familiarize the Kodiak with the suit, the trainer gave it to him in pieces.
"He literally claimed that suit as if it was a dead kill and pulled it in under his chest and started to put his weight on the upper body part,"
Hurtubise said. "He tore some chunks of the rubber off, but even though he was pounding on it with all 1,300 pounds, he wasn't able to crush it."
Even so the trainer expressed reservations.
"He said 'I will not put your life in jeopardy' and I was disappointed because I still feel the suit would have been able to handle it," Hurtubise said. "But he said he did have a 320 pound female grizzly and he felt that even if she took me down she wouldn't be able to penetrate the suit, even if she tried all day."
Further, Hurtubise said, he designed his suit specifically for grizzly bears, and not Kodiaks, a behemoth subspecies.
"I entered that grizzly's cage in the suit with no fear whatsoever, and it was a surprise even to the trainer that she ended up being that terrified of me. She cowered in the corner and showed all the signs a bear shows when it's submissive."
Hurtubise then persuaded the trainer to let him face the Kodiak as long as no contact was made, just to see its reaction.
"I was sort of hoping that he would give me a swat just to experience what it would have felt like," Hurtubise said. "But when he stood up on his hind legs and bared those bicuspids, I was a bit relieved his didn't"
After 15 years of research and development, Hurtubise feels vindicated, convinced the suit will allow him to test bear sprays at close range and conduct research on grizzlies.
Hurtubise will now start designing the Ursus Mark VII, making changes based on what he saw the Kodiak do to the Mark VI.
He's going to make the Mark VII more flexible, use a special type of chain mail that can withstand the pressure of a Great White shark bite, add more titanium struts to the torso, and make the suit look more human and less alien-like.
"The bear has got to associate you by sight first as a human being," Hurtubise said, "and then you can get the research done. But the Mark VI was too formidable-looking for a bear to even come near you."
We at the Annals of Improbable Research congratulate Troy on surviving this frightening test. With the rest of the world, we eagerly await news of his next adventure.
© Copyright 2001 Annals of Improbable Research (AIR)
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