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Virgin Oceanic's ambitious plans to explore Earth's last frontier

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April 11, 2011

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Seventy percent of Mother Earth's surface is covered in water, yet we know more about the moon than we do about our deepest oceans. In yet another ground-breaking initiative under Virgin's multi-faceted "Branded Venture Capitalism", Richard Branson intends to change all that with the Virgin Oceanic Five Dives project.

The project is a series of ocean expeditions to the bottom of the five deepest trenches in the world, beginning with an attempt on the world record 35,911 foot dive to the Pacific Ocean's Mariana Trench – the deepest point on earth.

The dives will be performed using the Hawkes experimental prototype DeepFlight Challenger submersible – a submarine more akin to an aircraft in the way it maneuvers than a traditional submarine because it glides on wings and used positive bouyancy. Constructed of extremely strong lightweight materials such as titanium and carbon fiber and quartz, the DeepFlight Challenger submarine will need to resist 1,000 atmospheres as it plumbs the lowest points on earth.

Each of the five dives will be the world's first solo dive to the bottom of the five oceans:

  • Mariana Trench Pacific Ocean 11,033m 36,201ft
  • Puerto Rico Trench Atlantic Ocean 8,605m 28,232ft
  • Diamantina Trench Indian Ocean 8,047m 26,401ft
  • South Sandwich Trench Southern Ocean 7,235m 23,737ft
  • Molloy Deep Arctic Ocean 5,608m 18,399ft
  • Now as we all know, Branson doesn't do anything just for fun. In addition to his brand's five main brand values - quality, value-for-money, innovation, competitive challenge and fun - there's a sixth factor involved in all of the 250 companies which have been spawned from the core brand: profitability.

    Hence, one of Branson's many partners in the project will be BBC Earth and the Five Dives expedition will be used to create new and totally unique, ultra-high resolution 3D IMAX+ quality content for film and television - apart from selling this content, it will be (no doubt tastefully) impregnated with the Virgin brand, further creating recognition of the name to school children and nature enthusiasts across the globe.

    In addition to the core brand recognition factors, Branson's investment in the adventure tourism industry is a far-sighted vision of the future. His investment in Virgin Galactic has already seen hundreds of wealthy adventurers put USD$200,000 on the table to secure a trip into space, and his vision is even beyond that - he makes no secret of the intention eventually leverage that business into ultra-fast sub-orbital travel. The Virgin Oceanic venture is the perfect partner for the Galactic business as "a voyage to the bottom of the sea" has been on every well-heeled, red-blooded adventurer's bucket list for as long as a trip to space.

    Finally, the high tech submarine to be used (as opposed to the submersibles which hold the current record and are lowered by cable and hence non-steerable), which can dive almost twice as deep as any current submarine, will be developed by Hawkes Ocean Technologies. The experimental prototype DeepFlight Challenger submersible is just one of three deep sea projects in which Hawkes will be involved in the next two years, the others using two Deepflight Super Falcon craft; a Hawkes-led project in the Gulf of Aqaba, Jordan and a multi-year ocean expedition, led by venture capitalist, Tom Perkins.

    One of the world's most charismatic businessmen, Sir Richard Branson discusses the reasons for the venture on his blog, and explains how the project fits into the larger Virgin picture in this video.

About the Author
Mike Hanlon Mike grew up thinking he would become a mathematician, accidentally started motorcycle racing, got a job writing road tests for a motorcycle magazine while at university, and became a writer. As a travelling photojournalist during his early career, his work was published in a dozen languages across 20+ countries. He went on to edit or manage over 50 print publications, with target audiences ranging from pensioners to plumbers, many different sports, many car and motorcycle magazines, with many more in the fields of communication - narrow subject magazines on topics such as advertising, marketing, visual communications, design, presentation and direct marketing. Then came the internet and Mike managed internet projects for Australia's largest multimedia company, Telstra.com.au (Australia's largest Telco), Seek.com.au (Australia's largest employment site), top100.com.au, hitwise.com, and a dozen other internet start-ups before founding Gizmag in 2002. Now he writes and thinks. All articles by Mike Hanlon
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5 Comments

Hmmm, why does the phrase, \"Ph\'nglui mglw\'nafh Cthulhu R\'lyeh wgah\'nagl fhtagn\" keep going through my head when I think about this project?

Alan Belardinelli

@Alan, if a Cthulhu stirs in the trench and no one is there to hear it does it make a sound?

Paul Anthony

O.K. Alan Belardinelle that was WAY to esoteric! What is that your saying? :-)

mrhuckfin

Give me 4 technologies used in Richard Branson launches Virgin Oceanic ?

Abowd Al B

I have a feeling that we\'re going to lose contact with him as soon as he hits the bottom. If he isn\'t getting sodomized by the chthulu he\'s prob going to end up losing the signal in a cave or just from the depth alone. even the strongest satellite internet dishes have trouble staying in contact with military submarines only ma couple miles below the surface, and i doubt the ones virgin will be using are as powerful.

charlie swahili
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