Abraham Lincoln

Richard Branson has deep-sea ambitions, launches Virgin Oceanic

April 5, 2011: 2:58 PM ET

The intrepid Branson launches Virgin Oceanic, a quest to explore the deepest parts of the aquatic world.

Richard Branson at Brainstorm GREEN

Richard Branson at Brainstorm GREEN

FORTUNE -- Yesterday at the Brainstorm GREEN conference in Laguna Niguel, Calif., Richard Branson sat down with Fortune Managing Editor Andy Serwer for a conversation where he unveiled his latest venture, Virgin Oceanic, through which he will explore the deepest underwater areas of the world.

"Virgin Oceanic will expand the reach of human exploration on our planet. By promoting and utilising new technology Virgin Oceanic will aid human kind's ability to explore our Oceans, assist science in understanding our eco system and raise awareness of the challenges facing our Oceans," Branson said in a statement about the project.

Branson told Serwer, "the exploration at the bottom of the oceans -- it's really not been explored at all. The furthest that any Japanese submarine or American submarine or Chinese submarine goes down is 18,000 feet, and yet there are trenches in the ocean that are like 36,000 feet … and there's something like [unintelligible number] species in the oceans we don't know about. And it's quite important...that we know what's going on down there. So that's the hitch."

The Virgin Sub. Courtesy Virgin Oceanic

The Virgin Sub. Courtesy Virgin Oceanic

In a statment, Virgin Oceanic explained how Branson and his co-commander will explore the ocean's trenches: "Each dive will be piloted by different commanders with Chris Welsh diving to the Mariana Trench (36,201 ft.) with Sir Richard as back up pilot, and Sir Richard piloting to the Puerto Rico Trench (28,232ft) -- the deepest trench in the Atlantic, which has never been explored before -- with Chris Welsh acting as back up.  The Virgin Oceanic sub has the ability to 'fly' underwater for 10km at depth on each of the five dives and to fully explore this unknown environment."

Branson will visit the deepest points of the world's oceans over the course of two years: The Mariana Trench in the Pacific, the Puerto Rico Trench in the Atlantic, the Diamantina Trench in the Indian, the South Sandwich Trench in the Southern Atlantic Ocean and the Molloy Deep in the Arctic Ocean.

A video of the conversation and a transcript follow: More

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