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Ask Sir Richard Branson!

September 22nd, 2011

Sir Richard Branson. Photo credit: David Shankbone/Wikimedia Commons

WOW! Sir Richard Branson has agreed to take 20 of HTE readers’ questions regarding his upcoming expedition to the deepest parts of the oceans! HTE is grateful to Sir Richard Branson and his team for this wonderful opportunity! Please submit your questions by MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 26, for a chance to have them answered. Please remember to include your FIRST NAME ONLY, AGE, AND STATE/COUNTRY. Thanks! The first and deepest dive is planned for later this Fall.

Sept. 6, 2011 — Sir Richard Branson is a British billionaire-businessman with a real passion for exploration and adventure. For many years now, his vision and attempts to accomplish what no others have in fields such as boating and ballooning have drawn as much attention, in some cases, as his business successes. Within his Virgin brand of businesses, he is currently working toward being the first to send regular tourist flights into space , hopefully within the next few years!

rending credit: Virgin Oceanic

But first, later this Fall, his Virgin Oceanic group will be taking a new high-tech, one-man submarine to the deepest part of any ocean, anywhere on earth — the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench off the coast of Guam, in the Pacific Ocean (my full, original story is below). This is no easy task. Two of the biggest challenges? First, it’s really cold down there, temperatures around freezing, because sunlight doesn’t reach there. Second, you feel pressure as you go down in water. And 7 miles down (the depth of the Challenger Deep), the submarine (and the person inside!) will have to withstand what will feel like approximately 8000 elephants standing on a Mini Cooper car, according to the Virgin Oceanic website!

This first dive is part of a larger mission to do the five deepest dives in the five oceans . Chief Pilot Chris Welsh is slated to take the Challenger Deep dive. Sir Richard Branson is reportedly set for the Atlantic Ocean dive.

rendering credit: Virgin Oceanic/Creative Commons license

Sir Richard Branson and his team at Virgin Oceanic will be using this opportunity to study the oceans, its life forms, and its health, as well. They may be encountering species for the first time, including what they expect to be the equivalent of fireworks under the sea, with “glow-in-the-dark” sea creatures they hope to study.

Chief Pilot Chris Welsh with Sir Richard Branson. Photo credit: Virgin Oceanic/Creative Commons

He is also working to protect the oceans and is in the process of launching Ocean Elders — a group of global leaders committed to drawing on science and ideas to keep our oceans healthy. What would your ideas to help the oceans be? Sir Richard Branson has founded and supports numerous other philanthropic projects as well.

Please submit your question, first name, age and state/country for Sir Richard Branson in the comment box at the very bottom by MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 26. Good luck!


The original story:

Race to the … Bottom?

August 4, 2011 — When we think of exploration and going where no one else has gone before, we usually think of space, right? But is there any place left on Earth that hasn’t been explored yet? Hard to imagine … but there is! In fact, 95% of the oceans remain unexplored and oceans cover over 2/3 of the planet!

A handful of people are trying to change that, not just to explore the oceans in general, but specifically to go to its very deepest part — a chasm seven miles down called the Challenger Deep. It’s off the coast of the U.S. Territory of Guam in the Western Pacific. From bottom to top it’s taller than Mt. Everest. And going down those 7 miles may just be tougher than going 60 miles up into space!

Fifty years ago, a submarine with two U.S. Navy divers made it down to the Challenger Deep. The pressure of being down that far, however, cracked the sub’s window and the landing kicked up so much of the bottom that they weren’t able to see much.

Credit: Jonathan Corum/The New York Times. Sources: Marine Geoscience Data System; NASA; NOAA; Journal of Experimental Biology

Lessons were learned from that first brave trip and technology has advanced, so it may now be possible to build a sub that will succeed. But it will still be incredibly challenging and risky.

So the race is on by a few teams independently trying build modern-day subs that can overcome those challenges. According to the New York Times, they’re all still in various stages of development and testing and cost somewhere between $7 -$40 million each. And for that price, there’s no guarantee they’ll get there … or even come out alive.

The first attempt is scheduled for later this year by British billionaire and explorer extraordinaire, Sir Richard Branson. He recently unveiled his one-man sub that actually looks more like a plane, the “Deep Flight Challenger” . It will have super thick walls, pressure resistant glass, and the wings are designed to ‘fly’ downward in the water. This trek is also the first of five deep dives he plans to make, one to the bottom of each ocean! Below is an animation of how he envisions it.

Branson is a known daredevil and he has attempted to adventure his way into a few record books already. He’s tried several times to be the first to circle the globe in a hot air balloon (much tougher than it sounds). According to reports, he has the fastest time for crossing the Atlantic Ocean in a powerboat, as well as for crossing the English Channel in an amphibious vehicle (see photo).  He’s also developing the first commercial passenger flights … to space! He thinks that flights on Virgin Galactic will be ready in about two years!

Others involved in hoping to make it to the Challenger Deep are the director of the movie “Avatar”, James Cameron, as well as former CEO (Chief Executive Officer) of Google, Eric Schmidt, and Triton Subs .

Triton subs

While Triton Subs talks about possibly taking tourists to the ocean’s depths, the hope is that underwater exploration will benefit adventurers and scientists alike. Who knows what creatures they’ll discover down there, maybe something right out of Jules Verne’s classic  20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

* This piece is based on a great story by William J. Broad in August 2nd edition of the New York Times.  To read it, and for much greater detail, you can click here.

P.S. Other modern-day explorers HTE likes: In The Footsteps of Marco Polo. Two ordinary guys decided to spend two years re-tracing Marco Polo’s journey. Click here for their story.

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37 Comments on “Ask Sir Richard Branson!”

  • James says:

    WOW is right!

  • Arlo says:

    Hi! Thank you to Sir Branson. Why not build a submarine rocket so you can get down faster? And if the wings are designed to go down, how do you go back up? Thank you!
    Arlo, age 7, New York

  • owen says:

    What will power your submarine?how will you get back to the surface?
    Owen, 10, New York

  • Susan says:

    Great article and interactive experience for students. Will use in my class for sure. It’s a good piece of informational text that will really get the kids excited!

  • Bryce says:

    What type of marine life do you hope to see during these deep dives?

  • Atri, age 8, New York says:

    What will you be wearing on your trip down to the trench? Is your sub temperature controlled? How long will it take you to go down there and come up again? Good luck on this fantastic voyage!

  • Natasha says:

    We read a lot about you but do not know much about why. What drives you to continue to make these strides both in exploration and in business?
    Natasha, age 15, Boys & Girls Club, NY

  • Alexis says:

    To you what is the most exciting thing about being the first to do something?
    Alexis, age 8, Boys & Girls Club, NY

  • Jordan says:

    On the website it said you were interested in protecting the ocean as well as exploring it. Do you think that this new exploration will help protect the ocean? And how?
    Jordan, age 9, Boys & Girls Club, NY

  • Jake says:

    How long will it take to get to the bottom? Will you find it scary to go down there to the unknown? What do you think you will find?
    Jake 7, New York

  • Noah 12, Canada says:

    How are you going to prepare? Do you have to prepare yourself in a special way or just be ready for anything?

  • Erik 6, Canada says:

    Do you think you will get down that deep on the first try or will it take a few times to get everything just right?

  • Mrs. Hanson & Capital City 402 says:

    -Will kids be able to go into space? Will your space trips offer space walks?
    -Can kids be Ocean Elders?
    -Why do you have “Sir” in your name?
    -Where’s the liftoff point to go to space?

  • Emma, 8, NY says:

    What was it like to be a child and have trouble with reading because I have the same problem?

    Also, I like the picture of the amphibious vehicle. Does it have a roof?

  • Sammie F says:

    Which creatures do you expect to find in the deep ocean? Will you be able to take photos and video? If so, I can’t wait to see them!!!

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