What's next for Virgin? After nightclubs, record labels, gadgets, cellphone carriers, airlines and space ships, Sir Richard Branson is getting into subs. Fifteen miles from his Necker Island, is the Puerto Rican Trench, deepest spot in the Atlantic. They'll dive!
Time Mag has this interview, the first place I've heard of the Virgin Oceanic project. From the sounds of it, they're still thinking about the subs themselves.
What hasn't been explored at all is the depths of the oceans. So we're in the process of building something called Virgin Aquatic, which is going to be submarines to go 35,000 feet underwater. The oceans need exploring - we know nothing about what's going on under 25,000 feet. I have an island called Necker Island and 15 miles from there is the deepest place in the whole of the Atlantic, the Puerto Rican Trench. It's quite likely that we'll set up a scientific and exploration center on Necker to send out expeditions to explore that trench and other trenches in the world.
The technical challenge is finding materials that can withstand the pressure at 35,000 feet. It's almost easier to build a spaceship to go into space than to build a vessel that can withstand the pressures at 35,000 feet. But we think we can do it.
Peter Ha susses more details from him at the eight minute mark in this video:
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In the video, Branson says that building space ships and subs are on par in terms of difficulty of hull designs that can resist great pressure. He also says that before the ultra deep dive vehicles are created, they'll start with light craft that can travel in the 1000 to 10000 foot range. And the goal, like Virgin Galactic, is both scientific and passenger, commercial.