Virgin Oceanic's ambitious plans to explore Earth's last frontier
By Mike Hanlon
April 11, 2011
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:
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.