Richard Branson Unveils Virgin Oceanic

There’s a reason why Sir Richard Branson is loaded. The dude knows how to get publicity and do what people normally only dream of. Just look at Virgin Galactic, a company within his Virgin Group. Virgin Galactic will hopefully deliver what many people have dreamed of since their childhood, going to space. The company will offer members of the public, meaning those with the money, a chance to go on sub-orbital space flights, which could someday also mean orbital flights. For now, Branson has been showing off his new toys by having fly-bys over major cities. His most recent fly-by featured his SpaceShipTwo and WhiteKnightTwo over San Francisco. While Virgin Galactic is still sometime away, Branson has something else just as exciting planned in the very near future.

On April 5, 2011 Branson announced his new-brand initiative, Virgin Oceanic. The objective behind Virgin Oceanic is to take a piloted submarine to the deepest points of the Earth’s five major oceans in 2011 and 2012. These ventures will include the Mariana Trench in the Pacific (the world’s deepest at 36,201 feet below the surface), the Puerto Rico Trench in the Atlantic (28,232 feet below the surface and has never been explored before), Diamantina Trench in the Indian Ocean, South Sandwich Trench in the Southern Ocean and Molloy Deep in the Arctic Ocean. Chris Welsh, an operator and sub owner, will pilot the Mariana Trench exploration with Branson as backup and vice versa for the Puerto Rico Trench. So why exactly is Branson doing this? Besides possibly breaking as many as 30 Guinness World Records, the main purpose is to “expand the reach of human exploration on our planet,” Branson said. Branson went on to say that “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.”

The sub, which “flies like an airplane” because of it’s wing-like hydroplanes and thrusters, is constructed from 8,000 pounds of carbon fiber and titanium. It’s fully operational at 37,000 feet below surface and can remain operating for 24 hours. The sub’s max speed is 3 knots, which means that it can dive some 350 feet per minute. So, the Mariana Trench trip for example, should take about five hours to complete. As the sub flies over the trenches it will gather video and data, which will most likely be analyzed by Virgin’s scientific partners. These partners include the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the University of Southern California, the University of Hawaii and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. Virgin Oceanic will also be teaming up with Google Maps, who will obviously, by providing the maps.

There’s a lot of science and technology behind this ambitious project. For one, it’s amazing that such a sub capable of handling this kind of pressure has not only been built, but is also functional. Secondly, the information that the sub will hopefully discover will be priceless for the science community, since only three percent of the ocean floor has been explored. Some of this scientific information will include discovering “the life that survives and thrives in sediments and rocks at the bottom of the ocean,” discovering new life, and unearthing how “the highest pressure ecosystems differ from lower pressure ones”.


While I’m not exactly a science geek, this seems like an incredibly valuable project for humankind that I’m psyched about. It’s going to be interesting to see what kind of mysteries and information that Branson and company will expose. This is most definitely a story to keep tabs on.  

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  1. john says:

    when is there first voyage to trench

  2. john says:


  3. Adalbert says:

    john – the only information that we can locate is that it will begin sometime this year, sorry we don't have more, but I guess Branson isn't exactly sure when it will take place