Richard Branson launches Virgin Oceanic: deep-sea exploring submarines


59 Responses to “Richard Branson launches Virgin Oceanic: deep-sea exploring submarines”

  1. professor says:

    The secret to this submarine’s success is that it will be made out of Congressman’s hides; these hides can withstand tremendous pressure (from the electorate) and keep their sponsors safe!

  2. TheCrawNotTheCraw says:

    It looks a lot like Supercar, referring to the old TV series with marionettes.

  3. Anonymous says:

    1951 the trieste reached 35,800ft and allowing for errors in measurement maybe deeper, claiming “depths never reached by manking”maybe a sligh exageration?. this vesle is going 3.24% deeper than any manned submercible WOW 60 years of improvement in technology and materials and the trieste could carry 2 people not just one.

  4. Anonymous says:

    It’s all fun and games til someone brings ßehemoth back to the surface.

  5. kagemeister says:

    Nice work if you can get it.

  6. Tatsuma says:

    I can’t find them right now, but there are some fantastic shots from the M/V Falcon, (that awesome sailing ship that looks like it should have belonged to Darth Vader) of the yachts private submersibles which look a lot like these subs, sailing around beneath the waves with their running lights on looking for all the world like star fighters……G-d what an awesome time to have unlimited funds!!

  7. TEKNA2007 says:

    It hasn’t been done until you can watch BBTV on the descent.

  8. Nelson.C says:

    That canopy must be hella thick; the Alvin uses four inches of titanium to keep the water from squishing its occupants, in the strongest shape possible, a sphere. Are transparent materials anywhere close to duplicating metals’ toughness? Or are they going to fill the cockpit and pilot up with perfluorocarbons, Abyss-style?

    • imag says:

      That was my first thought as well when I saw the depth. Cool as this looks, I don’t see any way they are going to get around making this thing spherical.

      Alvin’s titanium shell contracts under the pressure. The round windows are fitted in beveled holes, which allows them to float and accommodate the differential squishing. A pressure enclosure shown cannot reasonably do that.

      Carbon fiber might allow wizardry beyond Alvin’s ability, but it still makes no sense to do an oblong shape just for cool looks.

      The *only* think I can think of is that this is so much smaller than Alvin and Trieste (only 1 person capacity) that the oblong shape can be as strong as a larger sphere.

    • jimkirk says:

      I recall reading that some types of glass can indeed withstand amazing pressure, the pressure actually preventing/repairing micro-fractures that may try to occur. But I’m with you, the shape just doesn’t look optimal for 15,600 pounds per square inch (108 megaPascals). Spheres rule!

      • Anonymous says:

        I dont know if this has already been posted, I didnt want to read all the comments.
        The design of this vessel is rather old, it is engineered by Hawkes Ocean Technologies. On their Website is all the Info anyone could want.
        It was initially built for Steve Fosset, but he died before he could take it down to the mariana trench.
        The Form of the Glass shown in the Photos/Renderings is not the actual pressure hull, it is solely for hydrodynamic purposes.
        The real hull is made of acrylic glass and is a semi sphere atached to I guess a titanium cylinder.
        I think the secret is the size. Alvin, MIR and Shinkai are pretty large Vessels, while this one is made for just one person and a small pressure hull is a lot easier to build than a large one.

  9. Bill Beaty says:

    Supercar! How about Admiral Nelson of “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea,” the submarine Seaview made possible from his riches got from inventing the transparent metal “X-tempered Herculite.” Yes, the infamous ‘transparent aluminum’ goes way back.


    Less fictional (only slightly less,) perhaps VO has reinvented N. Tesla’s transparent blimp material for a submarine hull, sheets of some sort of plasma-treated micro-laminate. If the lattice mismatch between thin layers puts the material under enormous internal stress, like super-hyper-mega-tempered glass, then dunking it in the depths off Guam is only a slight increase in pressure.

    Ah, or Viktalen, the hull and windows of Nazi flying saucers. :) The formula provided by aliens/psychics, of course (or more likely stolen from Tesla, along with detailed electrodynamic hover-disk plans.) Oops, lots of others have already speculated much more wildly:

  10. Donald Petersen says:

    If Oceanic’s last flight is any indication, I think a more accurate representation of this endeavor would be this right here.

  11. Greg323 says:

    Interesting..I bet the final vehicle is a lot more utilitarian-looking and not nearly as plane-like.

  12. penguinchris says:

    This is so wonderfully outrageous… it sounds way too good to be true. A bit late for an April fool’s joke though, so I guess it’s real!

    For one, the submarine looks too “designed” to be real – if you look at other super-deep-diving submarines, it’s obvious they’re designed purely for function.

    I’m not really doubting them, it just seems so incredible. I guess I will believe it when I see it. I’ll bet the real thing won’t look very much like the artist renditions!

  13. The German Lars says:

    This crazy motherf’cker Branson believes he’s Captn Nemo. Of course he HAS to go down himself! Because he has “enough” understandig of science or so!

    But the best part is:

    “The submarine was originally commissioned by Sir Richard’s close friend and fellow adventurer Steve Fossett who had intended to complete the first solo dive to the depths of the Mariana Trench.”

    Wasn’t that the dude got lost a few years back while atempting to round the world or so?

    Whoooohoo! That sounds trustworthy!

  14. poolaka says:

    For all the doubters, you and just about everyone else has doubted Hawkes before. Guy knows his shit. Even if they have a hiccup or two, neither he nor Branson do things ‘just because’. They’re in it to win it.

  15. poolaka says:

    Also, having read up a bit about Hawkes designs in the past, this one-person craft is designed so that if the power cuts out and such, it’ll float back to the surface. Of course without power to scrub the air, you might be dead by the time you float back to the top anyway. One would hope they’d have that on a separate power system.

  16. Chuck says:

    How long before he starts offering trips to the core of the Earth?

  17. 2k says:

    I wonder if the emergency pill packaging will be designed with as much panache?

  18. Anonymous says:

    From atmosphere to fathoms, talk about multitasking!

  19. Andy says:

    I wonder what thought has gone into the effect the surface-intensity lights might have on marine life accustomed to zero or super minimal light intensity? Will it blind creatures? damage flora, microorganisms? I am not saying this is reason to prohibit the trip, but I am interested in the scientific thought process that weighs on this issue since this will be a change from the world as we know it near the surface.

    • Bill Beaty says:

      When “the Bloop” creature tries to suck your craft into its left nostril, just flash your lamps to scare it off!

      Hey, there’s a dsv in Seattle’s back yard. The Naval Undersea Museum over in Bremerton has Trieste II, also Deep Quest.“naval+undersea+museum”+dsv

    • Mister44 says:

      What an odd concern.

      Considering the dozens of deep water dives with lights and all, I have never heard of it harming marine life. While there is no light that deep, there is a ton of biolumenessense (sp).

  20. Anonymous says:

    Haters gonna hate. Branson is hot, his projects are sexy, and his visions push our world forward. I’m thankful to see that such a visionary has the funding, or means to obtain it, and the passion to see his dreams out.

  21. bmcraec says:

    “I’ve had a personal interest in the oceans and enough understanding of science to appreciate the chance this gives for oceanographers everywhere to learn, examine, and prove theories they have been working on for years. We can do this for them. We’ve created a unique program of going to all of the institutions and offering our capabilities for all to share. They’ve told us what to seek out, where to go, and what results will have the most value.”

    So, obviously the best qualified person on the planet for doing this stunt. Amazing what a gigantic pile of cash can buy, isn’t it?

  22. Zoman says:

    It looks like a USB stick with flippers. I worked for Virgin for 10 years. I had to sign a waver to never bad-mouth them, or IBM, or a bunch of other pr*cks.

    Virgin Galactic passengers = 0
    Virgin Galactic deaths = 3

    Just saying.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Who cares if they fail? Building this kind of excitement and attention to ocean exploration is long overdue. Scientists are constantly battling lack of resources and funding. If Richard Branson wants to throw his money and resources into such a great cause, why the doubt and animosity? He’s not stupid- if it looks like the sub can’t handle the pressure then he’s not going to get into it. The attention to adventurous ocean exploration just might get more people interested and finally get enough resources pointed toward overcoming the technological difficulties that have always held us back from deep-ocean research. Celebrate his audacity!

  24. Anonymous says:

    Just a minor note on the chart. The AGSS 555 USS Dolphin (which I believe they are referring to when they cite “Deepest military sub”) has been retired from service and is no longer operational.

  25. Anonymous says:

    Cool. If he wants to rent it out later, I’d be interested in taking a tour of the bottom of Lake Michigan. Not quite as exciting as the trenches, but there’s bound to be lots of cool stuff down there.

  26. Anonymous says:

    To help settle some design concerns, I extracted this image from a informational pdf:

    As with combat submarines, the outer shell is merely hydrodynamic. There is a pressure vessel within the outer shell: a cylinder with hemispherical endcaps. It looks like the pilot lays prone.

  27. Anonymous says:

    Richard Branson is mining the moon and Antarctica!

  28. Anonymous says:

    I work in the underwater vehicle industry, and this design seems very odd.

    The pressures at these depths are INCREDIBLE. This has 2 main implications. First, any volume large enough to be occupied by humans must be spherical (for strength); I don’t know of any other shape that’s been tested successfully for that kind of pressure and has a hatch for people to get in and out. The fighter-jet-style canopy on this vehicle looks very suspect.

    The second implication of pressure is that ballast tanks are impractical for deep diving vehicles (the energy required to force water out of tanks, called “blowing”, is prohibitive; nevermind the issues of creating deep-rated plumbing in the first place). Because of this, deep-rated vehicles are made to be neutrally buoyant, and change their depth by driving up or down in the water column.

    At this point, you might be thinking “ok, this vehicle looks like it is doing exactly that — driving down to the bottom of the sea”. You’re right, but that’s impractical too. Deep-rated vehicles drive around once they’ve reached depth, but to get to the bottom and back is over 12 miles round trip — even further if you don’t go straight down and straight back up. That would require a HUGE bank of deep-rated batteries, which would be ridiculously heavy. Real deep-rated vehicles use 2 drop weights: 1 that’s jettisoned when they reach their target depth, and another that’s jettisoned when they come back up. Long story short (too late…) the promo video looks very suspect.

    There are 2 deep-rated vehicles that might illustrate where I’m coming from: Nereus (an unmanned vehicle that holds the depth record), and Trieste (a bathyscape that carries people down to depth).



    Both of these vehicles carry quite a lot of flotation to maintain neutral buoyancy despite their weight. For perspective, the little ball under Trieste is where the people sit, and all the rest is flotation.

    I’d love to be wrong about this, but I’m not convinced that Richard Branson suddenly solved every difficult problem facing underwater vehicle designers for the past 50 years.

  29. Anonymous says:

    …when is someone going to tell Sir B that all the interesting things at the bottom of the sea will be _under_ the sub? It seems silly to spend all that money on X-tempered Herculite / Viktalen hyper-laminate only to stare up at 7 miles of saltwater.

    Perhaps it will do barrel rolls?

  30. Anonymous says:

    As a member of a netword of Enthusiasts that design and build recreational submarines, the Virgin venture is all the buzz and we are looking forward to the reports on this discovery adventure. Go for it Sir Richard, regards Lawrie Lyons (ref. Makepeace Island conversation)

  31. wobinidan says:

    I’m a little baffled. The deepest point in the Mariana trench (indeed, in the world) is listed on wikipedia as 10,971 meteres. Branson’s mission is to go 11,033m. And the poster states that the stupid submarine car can go 11,277m down. So this thing is going to travel 300m into the earth’s crust? I mean, that sounds cool and everything but…

    • Mister44 says:

      Our ability to presicely measure how deep it is is limited. The Trieste went to the 10,971 mark. Maybe someone feels the number is of, or there is another sport believe to be 60m deeper. Or it’s the designer putting in the wrong numbers.

      The second number, 11,277m, is probably the number it is made to withstand. It’s rating as it were.

      I don’t quite understand the animosity here. Exploration like this should be celebrated.

  32. Gutierrez says:

    I vote it fails pressure tests, they give excuses and push the date a couple of years citing safety.

    Sir Richard Branson and Peter Molyneux just need to get it over, couple up and settle down for the sake of all of us who can’t take the promises and disappointment.

  33. Mister44 says:

    I love love deep, abyssal plain type stuff. Look for a book called “The Deep” for mind blowing aliens on our own planet.

    However – I have to question the engineering of that big ass bubble canopy for the Mariana Trench dive. Granted technology is much more advanced than the last, and only time we visited with the Trieste, but I personally would want robust of a vehicle as possible.

    Fun fact – in what has to be the deepest ‘oh shit’ moment in history, on the way down one of the Portals on the Trieste cracked.

    When they do go down, let me know if they find a 60s era radio. My dad chucked one overboard into the trench and I always had this fantasy of someone finding it someday.

  34. Anonymous says:

    I rarely, if ever, comment on a story but this deserves recognition!
    If others had so much bravery and curiosity all of these places would have been visited long ago. I also include space, everybody seems so afraid to be connected to a mission yet the cost of an adventure seems trivial and the rewards are so great.

    Three cheers for Richard Branson!!!

  35. Jeremiah Cornelius says:

    God bless Sir Richard!

    He’s planning another millionaire-culling device!

  36. Anonymous says:

    is this where we finally get pictures of the elusive Bloop?

  37. xzzy says:

    Eh, google’s involved?

    I guarantee the dolphins are going to be up in arms (fins?) over google harvesting access points along the ocean trenches. Lawsuits are inevitable..

  38. jackruby1123 says:

    I F-ing love Dick Branson. Also, this is a great article. Brava.

  39. iskelton says:

    Mmmm. Nitrogen narcosis…

  40. nycjason says:

    Gotta love that the poster / info-graphic has not 1, but 2 references to Deepwater Horizon (max operational water depth @ 8K, max drill depth @ 32K)…

    Kudos to Virgin Oceanic graphics team!

  41. Maurice Reeves says:

    Can we all just agree that Branson is a real life Bond villain? How much do we really know about what he does behind closed doors with his white cat and tank full of live man-eating sharks?

  42. 3lliot says:

    Knew this was one way ticket, but you know… I had to come… oh ffs. *urk*

  43. Pantograph says:

    Anybody else get the impression that Branson watched too many Gerry Anderson shows when he was a kid?
    If only more billionaires had done the same.

  44. dunkyboy says:

    hmmm I dunno, I’m sure I’ve seen that film and it ends badly…

  45. ultranaut says:

    I want to be Richard Branson when I grow up. This is so fucking awesome.

  46. RSFSmee says:

    Concur with Anon #43 regarding the criticality of spherical compartments for humans and other pressure-sensitive equipment; I strongly suspect that the “fighter” style canopy is actually a perfect ball of transparent material (whether Pure Crystallized Unobtanium or not, Zeus only knows) simply *nested* in a metal framework that makes it appear more traditionally aircraft-esque. Astronaut helmets are the same, if you think about it.

    Assuming it works, and isn’t merely the shiniest known way to crush meatbags into cubic centimeters — let us be clear: Richard Branson *is* That Guy Who Builds an Atomic Rocket/secret underwater city/moon base/flying house in every overwrought work of mid-century science fiction. And *that* . . . is the sort of 21st century I waited out the 80s for.

  47. Brainspore says:

    With the resources of Virgin Galactic behind them it’s only a matter of time now until they offer tours beneath the frozen oceans of Europa.

  48. millrick says:

    i volunteer to be the first to go into space and descend to the bottom of the ocean, all within 24 hours.

  49. loosethoughts says:

    you know that vehicle is going to blind everything down there….

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