British entrepreneur and founder of the Virgin empire, Richard Branson, has unveiled plans to descend to the greatest depths our oceans have to offer in what he describes as a ‘submersible jet’ as part of his Virgin Oceanic adventure.
From humble beginnings in the early 1970’s when he bought and sold second hand records, Branson has become one of the most famous business pioneers in the world, and from the tiny acorn of his first Virgin record shop he has expanded into record and music publishing companies for recording artists, airlines, trains and even record breaking attempts in hot air balloons and high powered boats.
But his next adventure lies far below the surface of the ocean where he hopes to discover new life forms and find ‘benefits’ to the human race. With five dives scheduled over the next two years, Virgin Oceanic’s team will start with the daunting task of exploring the Mariana Trench off the east coast of Japan, the deepest known underwater trench at an estimated seven miles (almost 11,000 metres).
The deepest dive record was originally set in 1960 by Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh in the Swiss designed and Italian built submersible, Trieste. They reached the bottom of the Challenger Deep, the southern most part of the trench and recorded a depth of 10,911 metres.
Branson will not pilot the first mission himself but will take the helm for the second dive in what will surely be an incredible journey into the Puerto Rico Trench; a cinch at only 8,605 metres deep.
Three further dives are set to follow and will take Branson’s team to the Molloy Deep (5,607m deep) that lies between Svalbard and Greenland in the Arctic Ocean; South Sandwich Trench (8,428m deep) lying 100km east of the South Sandwich Islands in the Southern Ocean and the Diamantina Fracture Zone, a series of ridges and trenches with an average depth of 6,602m located in the south east Indian Ocean.
[adsense]It seems the multi-millionaire jetsetter isn’t satisfied with conquering the untapped depths of the oceans though as he has already taken advance bookings for around 300 hopeful astronauts who have paid in excess of $200,000 each for a seat on Branson’s Virgin Galactic maiden flight; a ‘space-shuttlesque’ suborbital spaceflight penned for launch in 2012.
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images: wired.co.uk; geekosystem.com