In possibly the most exciting news this week, Richard Branson is launching an ambitious mission to send a solo piloted submarine to the deepest points in each of the world’s five oceans.
“Virgin Oceanic will expand the reach of human exploration on our planet. By promoting and utilising new technology Virgin Oceanic will aid human kind’s ability to explore our Oceans, assist science in understanding our eco system and raise awareness of the challenges facing our Oceans” -Branson
Making five dives in two years the submarine will visit the very depths of the Earth’s Oceans in the world’s only submarine capable of taking a human being to such extreme depths. On his blog, Branson says up to 30 Guinness World Records could be set and Virgin Oceanic will work with leading scientific institutions to reveal what lies in vast unexplored areas in the world’s ocean depths.
Each dive is to be piloted by different commanders, with explorer Chris Welsh will be diving to the Mariana Trench (36,201ft) with Richard Branson as back up pilot. Branson himself will pilot the submarine to the Puerto Rico Trench (28,232ft) – the deepest trench in the Atlantic, which has never been explored before – with Chris Welsh acting as back up. Further dives will take place in the Diamantina Trench in the Indian Ocean, South Sandwich Trench in the Southern Ocean and Molloy Deep in the Arctic Ocean.
Branson’s partnering up with BBC Earth so that the one man expeditions giving camera crews unprecedented access to Earth’s greatest unexplored territory.
“This project will unlock the world’s greatest wilderness allowing us to film underwater in a way that has previously been impossible. 94% of all known life is aquatic and this expedition will uncover never seen behaviour and footage. Quite simply we don’t yet know exactly what we will find, but it’s potentially the most exciting project a wildlife filmmaker could work on.” – Neil Nightingale, Creative Director for BBC Earth
The Virgin Oceanic submarine will be a working research vessel carrying mounted and changeable pods on the wings with capability for autonomous video recording, high-definition sonar recording, science data collection and research science experiments. Footage will be captured with new ultra-high resolution cameras to generate 3D IMAX+ quality images. They’ll also be partnering with Google, using their mapping technology and to chronicle the dives as they happen and share discoveries, footage and record breaking achievements with the world.
There’s more pictures of the craft and teaser trailers at Virgin’s website.