Virgin Group chairman Richard Branson is adding "undersea exploration" to a growing list of fantastical business ventures that already includes trans-continental air travel, space tourism, and pay-as-you-go cellphone usage. Noting that "more men have been to the moon than have been down further than 20,000 feet [underwater]," Branson unveiled the Virgin Oceanic in Newport Beach today. And while it may look like a billionaire's plaything, this little sub is hardcore.
With an operating depth of 37,000 feet, or seven miles, the eight-foot-long Virgin Oceanic is built to withstand 13 million pounds of pressure. Branson's plan is to pilot it on five missions over the next two years, beginning with the Mariana Trench in the Pacific, then continuing on to dives in the Atlantic's Puerto Rico Trench, the Diamantina Trench in the Indian Ocean, the South Sandwich Trench in the Great Southern Ocean, and finally the Molloy Deep in the Arctic Ocean. If he makes it back alive, he'll have broken 30 Guinness world records, including the five deepest dives in history.
What would such a dive look like? We've included video of a computer simulation — though the animators have conveniently forgotten to include the giant fish with the dangling headlamp that swallows the entrepreneur for lunch. [Virgin Oceanic via PopSci]