Richard Branson to Attempt Deep Sea Exploration RecordsApr 10th, 2011 | By Roy Rasmussen | Category: Lifestyle
British entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson announced Tuesday that as part of his Virgin Oceanic deep-sea exploration initiative, he will be sending a solo piloted submarine to the deepest points of each of the world’s five oceans. Accompanying sub owner and operator Chris Welsh, sometimes serving as backup and sometimes piloting himself, Branson will attempt as many as 30 Guinness World Records over the course of 2011 and 2012.
Branson will be using a submarine originally commissioned by his adventurer friend Steve Fossett, the first person to fly solo nonstop around the world in a balloon. Fossett intended to complete the sub’s first solo dive, but died in a plane crash in 2007.
Designed by Graham Hawkes and made of carbon fiber and titanium, the Virgin Oceanic submarine is the only sub capable of withstanding the deepest depths of the ocean. It can operate at up to 7 miles below the surface, and can run for 24 hours unaided.
The Virgin Oceanic’s mission is supported by leading scientific institutions such as the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and will employ Google mapping technology. The Virgin Oceanic will seek to map territory, sample water and sediment, and study ecosystems previously inaccessible to human knowledge. Among other goals, the mission aims to provide the first documentation of the entire vertical sequence of ecosystems from the ocean’s surface to its deepest levels.
“Virgin Oceanic will expand the reach of human exploration on our planet,” Branson said. “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.”
Branson also launched a commercial spaceship program this week, as part of his Virgin Galactic enterprise. He has previously pursued world records in sailing and ballooning.
Branson funds his exploration activities with a fortune built on Virgin Records, which he founded in 1972. His Virgin Group now includes over 400 companies. Branson ranked 212th on the Forbes list of the richest people in the world in 2010, with an estimated $4.0 billion.