In the eccentric billionaire news of the week, Virgin Group founder Richard Branson (pictured above, right, with explorer Chris Welsh on the submersible) has announced that plans to explore the depths of the world’s oceans in a jet-like submarine in a project he is calling Virgin Oceanic, reports Reuters.
At a press conference in California, he announced that his 18-foot sub is capable of descending more than 36,000 feet below the surface. He plans to take five dives over two years, the first of which will be to the Pacific Ocean’s Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the world’s oceans.
Branson won’t pilot that dive himself, but plans to pilot the second dive into the Atlantic Ocean’s Puerto Rico Trench. Also on his list are the Molloy Deep in the Arctic, South Sandwich Trench in the Southern Ocean (where the Southern tip of South America meets Antarctica) and Diamantina in the Indian Ocean.
Branson says they could one day take passengers on deep sea dives, but for now they are just going to explore. “We are going to obviously come across some fascinating creatures and learn some fascinating things that will hopefully be useful for mankind,” says Branson.
This Virgin Oceanic project comes on the heels of Branson’s Virgin Galactic project, which will send wealthy passenger into suborbital space. Test runs are scheduled for this year, with passenger runs hopefully launching in 2012.
Huh. OK then.