Branson plans trip to the depths of the oceans

Posted by Emma Woollacott

It looks as if, for one man at least, space is far from the final frontier. Richard Branson has turned his attention to the seas, and is planning to take a mini submarine to the deepest point of each of the world's five oceans.

It's the first time anyone's atttempted to do this, and Branson says he expects to set around 30 world records.

"With space long ago reached by man, and commercial spaceflight tantalisingly close, the last great challenge for humans is to reach and explore the depths of our planet’s oceans," says Branson.

"The submarine will travel to the deepest trenches in our oceans and will allow its pilot not only to reach these depths but to explore for 10 kilometres on each of the dives."

The Five Dives expedition will take two years, and will be made in what Branson claims is the world's only submarine capable of taking a human being to such depths.

The Virgin Oceanic submarine is owned and operated by Chris Welsh and his company Deep Sub LLC, and will be a working research vessel carrying mounted and changeable pods on the wings. It will be capable of autonomous video recording and high-definition sonar recording, and will carry out various science experiments created by oceanographers from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

A second submersible will be carried on board the mother ship and will act as a camera platform at the start and finish of each of the dives, as well as taking part in shallow dives en-route across the world.

Footage will be captured with new ultra-high resolution cameras to generate 3D IMAX+ quality images.

Each dive will be piloted by a different commander. Chris Welsh will head the 36,201ft dive to the Mariana Trench, with Richard Branson as back-up pilot.

Branson himself will act as pilot for the Puerto Rico Trench - at 28,232ft, the deepest trench in the Atlantic, and never explored before.

Further dives will take place in the Diamantina Trench in the Indian Ocean, South Sandwich Trenchin the Southern Ocean and Molloy Deep in the Arctic Ocean.

The expedition will be joined by  BBC film-makers.

"This project will unlock the world’s greatest wilderness allowing us to film underwater in a way that has previously been impossible," says Neil Nightingale, creative director for BBC Earth.

"94 percent of all known life is aquatic, and this expedition will uncover never-seen behavior and footage. Quite simply, we don’t yet know exactly what we will find, but it’s potentially the most exciting project a wildlife filmmaker could work on."