Space, the final frontier… at least for most. For North Vancouver entrepreneur, deep-ocean explorer, and scientist Phil Nuytten, the final frontier has always been much closer to home… the ocean blue.
Born on August 13, 1941, Phil has been a pioneer in the diving world for decades. From witnessing early demonstrations by military ‘frogmen’ in the 1940s, to seeing alien sea creatures in the display tanks of the Vancouver Aquarium, the depths of the ocean have always been pulling him in. As a teen Phil dropped out of high school to open and operate the first dive shop in Vancouver, and since then he’s been pushing the boundaries of how deep humans can go with one self-proclaimed ‘amateur attempt’ after another.
When it opens later in 2021, MONOVA: Museum of North Vancouver will feature one of Phil’s biggest inventions, the Newtsuit.
Phil’s First Breakthrough
The journey of the Newtsuit begins in the 1960s. Phil worked in commercial diving, training divers and working in some of the deepest conditions possible at the time. His first breakthrough came in 1977 with the patenting of the rotary joints that make the Newtsuit so flexible. The actual suit wouldn’t be ocean-ready until 1982, but the Newtsuit has been the commercial and military standard for contained diving suits ever since.
Designed with safety at the forefront, the Newtsuit acts like a submarine that you can wear, providing the pilot with a comfortable one-atmosphere environment. This means that no matter how deep you get and how intense the pressure may get, the inside of the suit will feel like you’re standing up at sea level. This also means that divers won’t have to worry about the bends, a sometimes-fatal medical issue that occurs when deep-divers surface too quickly, something that has always increased costs and work times in commercial diving. Optional accessories include working lights, high definition cameras, and the jetpack-like thruster pack.
Flying Through The Water
The thruster pack is a must for those who don’t want to be trudging along the ocean floor and instead wish to fly through the water. Made up of two pairs of propellers mounted to the back of the suit, the thruster pack is controlled easily through pedals in the boots. Gentle pushes will send the pilot coasting through the water, turn them in tight circles, and even help them up if they tumble over.
The alternative to this, and indeed the original method before the creation of the thruster pack, was to walk. When described to the author by a past Newtsuit pilot, the technique for walking in one of these 850lb suits of armour involves planting a foot and swinging the other leg out and around to catch yourself before you fall. When the maneuver works it can look elegant, but when it doesn’t, at least you’re falling in style.
Coming Soon: The Newtsuit at MONOVA
MONOVA: Museum of North Vancouver opens later this year and we can’t wait for you all to see what we have to offer including Phil Nuytten’s groundbreaking Newtsuit. If you can’t get enough Newtsuit, be sure to check out the other things Phil Nuytten has on the go. These range from the next generation of suits called the Exosuit, to the luxurious ORCASUB, to the sea floor base called Vent-Base Alpha that sounds like something right out of a James Bond movie.
– Simon Diersch, Museum Technician
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