A few weeks ago James Cameron made a record breaking submarine descent to the bottom of the Challenger Deep—the deepest point of the ocean here on planet earth. His sub collected samples and filmed video, a first for any dive to those depths. Nipping at his heels is billionaire Richard Branson with his Virgin Oceanic project. Since Cameron is quickly on his way to the billionaires club with recent revenues from Avatar and the re-release of Titanic, it seems only proper that Branson give Cameron a run for his money.
The Virgin Oceanic project has two vessels. One is a deep sea cruiser that will allow for longer times spent at these insane depths to search for more places to do research in the deep. Much like the Virgin Galactic program that will fly routine trips to outer space, the Oceanic project is hoping to allow for routine trips at these depths, allowing more people and more time to explore this unknown world. It is hard to tell whether this is more of a contest or colloboration, but according to the Virgin website:
The Virgin sub is excellent for large scale exploration and identifying areas worthy of more detailed examination, and Jim’s sub is perfect for detailed examination of those sites once found. We can achieve more through collaboration that just the sum of our efforts.
The second vessel is a giant catamaran that will be the mothership and support vessel for the larger goal of the project, to dive to the deepest point of five different oceans around the globe. In the wild extravagance that Branson is known for, the catamaran will have a mast that is taller than the statue of liberty. The whole project may seem a little over the top, but it is in the name of science. As the two billionaires either collaborate, compete, or likely a combination of the two, the science of the deep will certainly be progressed over the coming years. These exciting new developments are a welcome change in our world that seems to spend more time watching Jersey Shore instead of learning about science. Hopefully these eccentric billionaires can inspire a rebirth of interest in science and exploration for our youth.