Billionaire Sir Richard Branson has brought a new toy to the realm of high-price adventure: a single-person submarine capable of diving six-miles under water. The 18-foot carbon-fiber and titanium craft, dubbed the Virgin Oceanic, resembles a single cockpit plane and is the latest addition to Branson's personal exploration crafts, a line that includes the commercial space flight, and crafts for high-speed oceanic travel.
"If someone says something is impossible, we like to prove it's possible," Branson told the Mercury News. "I love learning and I'm just very fortunate to participate in these kinds of adventures."
According explorer Chris Welsh, slated to pilot the Oceanic's first dive, the dives will be dangerous--requiring pilots to spend large periods of time in the dark, cold depths of the ocean with little communication to the outside world, and no hope for rescue.
Branson, who founded the Virgin Group including Virgin Records and Virgin Airlines, will be partnering with the Scripps Institute of Oceanography in San Diego, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, Moss Landing Research Labs, and other scientific foundations to study the tectonic plates and fauna found at extreme depths. "Scientists believe something like 90 percent of species on Earth have not been discovered," Branson said. The sub's first dive will explore the depths of the Mariana Trench, and is scheduled for later this year.
The craft is also the beginning of an oceanic-tourism line offering jaunts in the oceans' depths for an undisclosed amount.
--Ali Taylor Lange