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Yesterday, when billionaire Richard Branson announced the expansion of his Virgin Oceanic program to deep-sea exploration, he joined a very exclusive club. Okay, sure; he's already a part of the private island owners' club, the billionaires with space travel aspirations' club, and even the private club owners' club. Now, however, he can finally join the ranks of submarine owners of the world.
Technically Branson got his first sub last year, with the launch of the Necker Nymph, a 3-person tourist sub that accompanies his catamaran yacht-for-charter, the Necker Belle. Read more on it here, but do note its similarities to an airplane, rather an a conventional submarine. Branson's new sub will instead be a 1-seater with capability to reach 37,000 feet. That's crazy, and Branson is even crazier; he intends to pilot the second of five planned deep dives, and stands as the back-up pilot on the first, Marianas Trench dive.
Heaven forbid something happens to Richard, but we're now wondering what other billionaires count submarines among their toys?
This is not the happiest day, nor is it the saddest for the families of those who were killed in the crash of Air France Flight 447 two years ago. The correct term is "bittersweet," as finally deep-diving submarines have located a large portion of the airliner two-and-a-half miles underwater, well off the coast of Brazil. With the discovery of the engines, pieces of the fuselage and the landing gear comes the recovery of more bodies andhoping against hopeperhaps the black box.
The AP video above explains why locating the flight recorder ("black box") is so important, even though two years of seawater may have taken its toll. If any information can be pulled from it, then there is a chance that the world may finally learn what happened to cause the sudden disappearance of the plane from the skies. The current theory is heavy turbulence and issues stemming from "high-altitude storm" it hit between Rio de Janeiro and Paris.
Travel Tweet of the Week / Twitter / Twitter Travel / Southwest Airlines / Pilots / Submarines / → All Tags
We love Tuesdays. Why, you ask? Because the day brings many travel tips and quips as "Travel Tuesday" on Twitter, and we're going to share our favorite with you. Got an avid travel twitterer we should follow? Let us know.
Pilots get to see the coolest stuff. No, really. They work in an office that's like Google Earth, and of course have the best views at take-off and landing. Going over the Grand Canyon or Wall of China? Oh pish poshthat's child's play.
Witnessed a rare event today. Descending into San Diego along the coast we saw a missile launch from probably a submarine. Spectacular!
Submarines / Virgin / Virgin Oceanic / Virgin Limited Edition / Boats / Necker Nymph / Richard Branson / → All Tags
Virgin mogul Richard Bransonhe of the naked model kitesurfing and private islandhas added a very cool new toy to his impressive holdings. Fresh from all of the buzz surrounding the advancement of Virgin Galactic, Branson is pioneering ahead with a 3-person submarine named Necker Nymph, under a Virgin Oceanic brand, within his Virgin Limited Edition collection of properties.
It's the first sub of its kind, developed especially for Branson by Hawkes Ocean Technologies, and if you're game to pay $88,000 per week for a vacation onboard Branson's new yacht Necker Belle, you'll have the opportunity to take the sub for a spin. And what a spin it will be...
It's like an underwater airplane! More after the jump
Adventure Travel / Hawaii Travel / Quirky Travel / Water Sports / Ecotourism / Submarines / Boats / → All Tags
Adventure travel company Incredible Adventures has been letting customers pilot high-altitude fighter jets for years. Now the Florida-based company is going from soaring through the air to "flying" under the sea, teaming up with California's Sub Aviator Systems to let people navigate the oceans in company's winged submarine. The Super Aviator looks much more like a jet than it does a sub, and apparently it feels that way too. Per the website blurb, it's a "totally new dimension of flight."
To handle the unique sub you'll need to go to Hawaii this February and be able to hand over between $3,350 and $8,650. But if you're willing to do that they're willing to train you and take you beneath the waves. The Super Aviator runs on battery power but it runs fastin contrast to a normal submersible where you can stand up and walk, zooming around in this jet requires Indy-500 style seat belts.
It's been exactly a week now since the mysterious disappearance of Air France Flight 447 somewhere off the coat of Brazil. At first, it seemed as though the search parties were running around like chickens with their heads cut off, with no definite search area and not even a solid guarantee that the flight had hit the ocean.
Earlier last week, what appeared to be debris from the fatal flight had been found, but this was determined to be run-of-the-mill ocean trash on Thursday. As of this weekend, be-logoed Air France airplane pieces have been found along with the bodies of 17 passengers, therefore confirming that the plane met with a tragic fate.
The oceanographic world suffered a great loss with the death of Jacques Piccard on Saturday. Piccard accomplished a lot in the field of oceanography and engineering, but he is best known for his descent, along with Lt. Don Walsh, to the deepest part of the ocean. It was January 23, 1960 when Piccard and Walsh hopped in a bathyscaphe called Trieste and lowered themselves down, down, down to the floor of the Challenger Deep, the deepest part of the Mariana Trench near Guam. At 10,916 meters below sea level, Trieste touched down on the ocean floor so gently that it didn't even raise a cloud of silt. I interviewed Piccard a couple of years ago, and he told me what he thought was the most important discovery at that depth: a fish. At the time, scientists were wondering what to do with nuclear waste, and they considered dumping it into the Mariana Trench on the assumption that there was no oxygen down there to interact with it. Because Piccard and Walsh saw a fish on the bottom and reported the finding, the ocean floor - and the ocean itself - has been protected from nuclear waste ever since.
People said, oh nuclear waste, we can drop them in the deep trenches and then they would stay there forever. And no, we said no, it’s not true, this fish practically told us that we are not to drop any nuclear waste in the bottom of the trenches, because we know that the water is finally coming back to the surface, and all the sea would be damaged, all the oceans would be damaged by the nuclear waste.
Despite all the advances made in sea exploration since that day nearly fifty years ago, nobody has yet returned to that spot in the deep blue. But Monsieur Piccard accomplished enough with his one dive to last a half century and beyond.
Diving / Submarines / Videos / → All Tags
Just because Karl Stanley's homemade submarine can dive to 2,000 feet off the coast of Honduras doesn't mean passengers will get to see exotic deep sea creatures. You've got to lure them out of hiding, which Capt. Stanley does the old fashioned way, says one of his recent passengers:
Eight hours earlier, Stanley had bought a tired old horse from a nearby stable, led it onto a boat, shot it in the head, tied cinder blocks to its hooves and dumped it in the ocean.
And that actually wasn't the craziest part of the experience.
Victor Ozols has long talked about taking up yachting as a hobby. He recently realized that he was thinking too small.
Money aside, I've always thought I'd make a great yachtsman. I've seen that yacht show on the Travel Channel, and I'm pretty sure I can do everything those experienced yacht owners do, only better. I'd cruise the waterways of the world in an energy-efficient mega-yacht with my family, dropping by elegant ports of call to host parties and explore the new surroundings, all while treating my crew really nicely and doing some charitable stuff for the local people as well. Yeah, it would be great.
Only maybe a regular yacht isn't good enough, not when I can have a luxury submarine instead. As the U.S. Submarines website points out, a yacht is fine and dandy until you hit rough water, and then all the fancy floor tiles in the world won't keep you from getting seasick. A submarine, however, has the ability to submerge to the tranquil world beneath the whitecaps with a moment's notice, so you can enjoy a few rousing games of underwater baccarat without losing your lunch on the croupier. Knowing that, why would anybody suffer with a "regular" mega-yacht? It's crazy.
Christmas is still four months away, so there's plenty of time to put a bid on the Phoenix 1000 (pictured), the most luxurious submarine in the world. At 65 meters long and 8 meters wide, it has 460 square meters of interior space spread out over multiple decks. A flying bridge at the top provides a fantastic perch from which to take in the sun when on the surface, while the deck saloon and passenger areas below have every conceivable amenity, including panoramic windows that provide amazing views of the outside world. There are even remote fish feeders to give you something to look at as you gaze into the great blue beyond. A diver lockout chamber and a diving mini-sub ensure that a quick getaway is always possible should the need arise.
The estimated price of the Phoenix 1000 is $78 million, but it looks like it's been on the market for a while, so there might be some wiggle room. What do you think, Jaunted readers? Show your weekend editor some love and pony up for the luxury submarine he so surely deserves for his efforts. I promise to be the nicest submarine owner on the seven seas.
[Photo: U.S. Subs]