London: Sir Richard Branson, whose dream of being the first person to reach the bottom of the ocean in a solo submarine was quashed when James Cameron beat him to it this week, is now working on his own deep-sea project, which he plans to launch later this summer. The founder of the Virgin group of companies, however, insists that he is not jealous of the Titanic star, and thinks that his quest, which will see him journey to the floor of the Puerto Rico Trench in the Atlantic Ocean, will prove even more thrilling than Cameron’s journey to the bottom of the Pacific.
While Cameron discovered a lunar landscape with no living creatures larger than inch-long prawn-like beings, the 61-year-old hopes that he finds various different creatures on his maiden project.
“The Puerto Rico Trench is deeper than Mount Everest is tall, and it is completely unexplored,” a leading daily has quoted him as saying.
“There are numerous Spanish and British galleons, which have gone down there, so we would hope to be able to explore those. There are lots of different big creatures too,” he said.
He explained that he had never been due to dive the Marianas Trench, but admits it was a disappointment that Cameron beat his bid, which would have been piloted by Chris Welch, a colleague of Sir Richard’s, in the Virgin Oceanic craft.
“It was obviously a very historic day and actually an important day, a fantastic example of human endeavour and determination,” he said.
“I have been over Everest in a balloon, and that was awesome, but he went down one and a half times further than Everest is deep. I was never planning to do the Pacific dive, I have always planned to do the Atlantic,” he said.
The business magnet further added that Cameron was a “good friend” that he hoped to cooperate with on future dives. After his dive, Cameron said he doubted that such barren waters as he experienced could sustain many life forms, but Sir Richard said any large creatures at the bottom of the ocean would have been scared off by Mr Cameron’s large vessel.
“You suddenly see this big mission coming down with massive lights, anything big would move a mile away,” he said.
“On such a short trip you really can’t explore and move around a lot. We know there are gigantic things down there. I think that is where the two subs working together would be good. Ours is battery-powered, so very quiet. We could work out a way to identify a creature, then call the other sub to film it,” he added.