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Branson will be exploring the deepest parts of the world's oceans in the Virgin Oceanic submarine

Day two of the Brainstorm GREEN conference yesterday revealed that Richard Branson will embark on an undersea venture where he will explore some of the deepest parts of the oceans around the world. 


The Brainstorm GREEN conference is where thought leaders and business leaders - such as Fortune 500 companies, government policymakers and environmental activists - come together for a three-day symposium in Laguna Niguel, California in order to exchange and discuss ideas.


Richard Branson is a British entrepreneur who is known for the Virgin brand. He first launched Virgin Records in 1972, which later became Virgin Megastores. The name then grew into over 400 companies, which make up the Virgin Group. Branson is also deeply interested in environmental endeavors, such as the Virgin Green Fund, which invests in companies that can compete with "dirty industries" like oil and make a profit in order to eliminate reliance on dirty fuels.


Now, at the Brainstorm GREEN conference, Branson told Fortune Managing Editor Andy Serwer that he would be exploring the deepest parts of the world's oceans in the Virgin Oceanic submarine. 


The sub, which was designed by Graham Hawkes, weighs 8,000 lbs and is made of carbon fiber and titanium. It has an operating depth of 37,000 ft and can operate for 24 hours "unaided." It was designed in such a way that it looks like it has fins and a unique flying wing so that can range the seas "in harmony with its environment." In addition, Branson notes that it is much less expensive to operate and manufacture than other subs that cannot achieve full ocean depth like the Virgin Oceanic can. 


"Virgin Oceanic will expand the reach of human exploration on our planet," said Branson. "By promoting and utilizing new technology, Virgin Oceanic will aid humankind's ability to explore our oceans, assist science in understanding our ecosystem and raise awareness of the challenges facing our oceans." 


He also noted that other submarines prior to the Virgin Oceanic could only dive 18,000 ft, while some of the deepest trenches in the world are around 36,000 ft. The Virgin Oceanic was designed to be the first sub to explore some of these areas. 


The Virgin Oceanic venture will consist of five dives in five different oceans. The crew will explore the Mariana Trench in the Pacific, the Diamantina Trench in the Indian, the South Sandwich Trench in the Southern Atlantic, the Puerto Rico Trench in the Atlantic and the Molloy Deep in the Arctic Ocean. 


"Each dive will be piloted by different commanders with Chris Welsh diving to the Mariana Trench (36,201 ft) with Sir Richard as back-up pilot, and Sir Richard piloting to the Puerto Rico Trench (28,232 ft) - the deepest trench in the Atlantic, which has never been explored before - with Chris Welsh acting as back-up," said Branson. "The Virgin Oceanic sub has the ability to 'fly' underwater for 10 km at depth on each of the five dives and to fully explore this unknown environment." 


The mission is expected to take two years.

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RE: Is this a joke?
By Skott on 4/6/2011 10:56:06 AM , Rating: 3
Most explorers and inventors are considered crazy or stupid by people until they succeed. Then they suddenly become brilliant and visionaries. They must have a idea of what they're doing or they wouldn't put so much money and time into it. I'm guessing the picture is more of an artist's rendering at this point. It will be interesting to see how the venture turns out.

RE: Is this a joke?
By Schrag4 on 4/6/2011 11:16:36 AM , Rating: 2
I'm sure he understands the risks (meaning he's not stupid) but, yeah, I'd consider him crazy. I'll admit I don't know much about underwater travel, but this kind of mission sounds extremely unforgiving. If there's a design flaw, a flaw with how the craft is built, if the pilot makes a mental mistake, if any one of several systems fail, he's a goner. That being said, I'm sure that just adds to the thrill for him ('cause again, he's crazy).

RE: Is this a joke?
By Pirks on 4/6/11, Rating: -1
RE: Is this a joke?
By Iaiken on 4/6/2011 12:31:22 PM , Rating: 4
Sub is not a box shape.

In fact, the bulb on the bottom suggest that it contains a pill shaped pressure capsule that is installed on an angle. However, don't let reality or the absence of any real knowledge stop you from jumping to conclusions.

RE: Is this a joke?
By Pirks on 4/6/11, Rating: -1
RE: Is this a joke?
By JediJeb on 4/6/2011 6:08:43 PM , Rating: 2
While I do agree that what is pictured is not a good design as it appears, Branson is listed as being on the first dive to the Mariana as the backup pilot, so he will be taking the risk too.

If you look at Alvin it does not appear spherical either, because there is a composite housing surrounding the sphere which is used only to shield the outside components, so as long as there is a sphere inside you can put any type of covering on the outside you want as long as it is flooded inside that covering. If you put a spherical crew compartment inside a hydrodynamicaly shaped cover so that it will move through the water with less resistance it should work just fine.

RE: Is this a joke?
By Dr of crap on 4/6/2011 12:39:01 PM , Rating: 2
So his sub space orbits are stupid and crazy as well??

People are paying up to be able to do it.
This is just the same only under water.

RE: Is this a joke?
By mcnabney on 4/6/2011 1:13:31 PM , Rating: 2
Not much in the way of 'science' going on with his suborbital flights. He is just catering to the needs of the wealthy in providing an 'experience of a lifetime'.

RE: Is this a joke?
By Iaiken on 4/6/2011 1:24:18 PM , Rating: 2

Funny you should say that since they've already started contracting themselves out to research institutes that want to study micro-gravity, but didn't have access through NASA.

"We’re Apple. We don’t wear suits. We don’t even own suits." -- Apple CEO Steve Jobs

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