Explorers Connect

Virgin Oceanic

CommunityJames Hipkiss

Sir Richard Branson is pushing the boundaries of exploration again.... Over the course of 2012 and beyond, Virgin Oceanics one-person sub will journey to the deepest part of each of Earths five oceans.

The first dive will be to the deepest place on the planet: the bottom of the Mariana Trench 11 kilometers (7 mi) straight down. This will be the first time since 1960 that human eyes have set sight here when the bathyscaphe,Trieste(which moved straight up down like a hot air balloon) briefly touched down carrying co-pilots Don Walsh and Jacques Piccard. This time, a sub that flies more like an airplane will allow the solo pilot, Chris Welsh, not only to reach the deepest point on Earth, but then to fly along the bottom of the Trench an additional 10 kilometers (nearly 6 mi). The second dive to the bottom of the Puerto Rico Trench will be piloted by Sir Richard Branson.This trench is the deepest spot in the Atlantic Ocean at over 8 kilometers (more than 5 mi).

This location is also near to Bransons home on Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands. Subsequent dives will carry a human pilot to the bottom of the Arctic, Southern and Indian oceans. Less than 3% of the seafloor has been explored, and none of the deepest points of the planet have ever been explored beyond a brief visit to one. The opportunities to see and learn from these dives are monumental. Key dates and timings Virgin Oceanics first dive will be to the Mariana Trench later in 2012, and further dives are scheduled over the next 24 months, subject to receipt of all required regulatory approvals. The Mission Virgin believes that the Oceans offer exciting possibilities for human exploration and scientific research. Our vision through Virgin Oceanic is to explore the possibilities of enabling adventurers and pioneers to participate in oceanic exploration. If we are successful in our mission with this innovative design of submarine, then we will have proven that a vehicle can be built to withstand the extreme pressures of the oceans and that it is possible to take humans at far reduced risks to the bottom of our Oceans.

This submarine will likely finish its days on display in a museum but if we can prove the design, Virgin may explore the possibility of future missions involving other submarines that can collect samples and facilitate science and research. When we have evolved our capacity for exploration, we will unlock opportunities to discover vast areas of our planet that we currently have no knowledge of. This is our vision. Innovation Fantastic new technologies and materials harnessed by the worlds foremost submarine designer,Graham Hawkes(with Hawkes Ocean Technologies), make it possible to push the boundaries of human experience. The two greatest challenges to human exploration of the deep oceans are pressures of over 1,000 atmospheres (approximately the equivalent of 8000 elephants standing on a Mini-Cooper) and the extreme cold (just slightly above freezing).

Not only is this submersible capable of withstanding both of these extremes, but its built-in cost efficiencies make extensive deep water flights much more accessible, bringing science and wonder ever closer, which is what Virgin Oceanic is all about.