Richard Branson has big plans to plunge to the deepest point on earth in a specially built submarine.
The Virgin Oceanic craft is built of titanium and carbon fibre, travels at up to three knots and is capable of operating at a depth of 37000ft. The single window is built of quartz as the pressure at that depth would just shatter glass.
Pilot Chris Welsh will single-hand the one-man submarine 11km to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, a point lower than Mount Everest is high.
With a diving speed of 350ft per minute, the journey there and back is expected to last five hours and will follow in the footsteps of the first people to reach the bottom point of the earth, Don Walsh and Jacques Piccard, who briefly touched down in 1960. No one has been back since.
Branson will pilot the second of Virgin Oceanic’s five missions to the deepest points on earth.
What if I were to tell you about a planet, inhabited by ‘intelligent’ beings that had, in the 21st Century, physically explored 0% of its deepest points and mapped only 3% of its oceans by unmanned craft, when 70% of that planet’s surface was made up of water. Then I tried to convince you that only 10% of the life forms inhabiting that unknown world, are known to those on the surface – you’d think I’d fallen asleep watching the latest sci-fi blockbuster! Then you discover that planet is Earth…
With space long ago reached by man, and commercial spaceflight tantalisingly close, the last great challenge for humans is to reach and explore the depths of our planet’s oceans. The submarine will travel to the deepest trenches in our oceans and will allow its pilot not only to reach these depths but to explore for 10 kilometres on each of the dives.
Virgin Oceanic is working with some of the most eminent scientific institutions in the world to collate data and catalogue life forms that will never have been seen before by human eyes and are unknown to science. The ability to go deep and then explore has been a dream of these great Oceanic Institutes – that dream is now close to becoming reality.
They are also proud to be partnering with Google. Using their mapping technology, Google hopes to chronicle the dives as they happen and share discoveries, footage and record breaking achievements with the world.
They may well set a few Guinness World Records while they are at it – up to 30 for sure! Each dive will be the world’s first solo dive to the bottom of the five deepest trenches in the world. So there’s 5 just to start with! We will discover a whole new world. A world full of undiscovered species and for those who dream, a world where Spanish galleons have lain unplundered for centuries!