After announcing the creation of one of the world’s first commercial spaceflight ventures, Virgin is now moving to explore more uncharted territory.
Virgin Oceanic will be the ultimate undersea expedition: five dives (one in each of the five oceans) over the course of the next two years. Of the five chosen sites (see map below), four have never been visited by a manned vehicle (unless you count shipwrecks and plank-walking pirates, that is).
Pilots will be navigating these new waters aboard the most advanced single-person submarine ever created, the only vehicle currently capable of diving to full ocean depth. Made of a unique blend of carbon fiber and titanium, the Virgin Oceanic sub is able to withstand immense amounts of pressure (at the deepest diving point, pressure on the quartz dome could reach up to 13 million pounds, or the weight of three space shuttles!).
So how does one design a manned vehicle that can function at the bottom of the ocean? Marine engineer and Virgin Oceanic sub designer Graham Hawkes may be the best person in the world to answer this question. According to Ted.com, Hawkes’ ingeniously designed submersibles “look like airplanes and behave like ocean creatures,” allowing them to glide effortlessly through the deep. Watch this clip for a fascinating look behind his inventions:
Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group and avid adventurer, will pilot at least one of the submarine dives. If the missions succeed, we all may have an unprecedented view of the ocean floor, as well as a few real-life Captain Nemos.