Race to the bottom of the ocean: Virgin

The first dive to the Mariana Trench 50 years ago was made by a team of two, but Virgin is now backing a solo effort. The team is planning to use a radical "flying" submersible to make it down to the ocean's deepest spot - and then to explore four other trenches around the world.
  • 140 minutes to reach the bottom
  • 1 maximum crew
  • 10km Range on the ocean floor
  • 24 hours air supply
  • Length: 5.4m (17ft 8in)
    Width: 3.9m (12ft 11in)
    Height: 1.7m (5ft 7in)

A lonely challenge

Chris Welsh describes why he wants to make the world's first solo dive to the bottom of the Mariana Trench.

Chris Welsh, from California, explains why he has decided to go on a risky lone dive to the bottom of the Mariana Trench.

The sub that flies

Engineer Graham Hawkes describes why he has designed a submarine that is based on a plane.

Engineer Graham Hawkes, who designed the Deep Flight Challenger, explains how the submarine can "fly" through the water like a plane flies through the air.

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The Deep Flight Challenger submersible has been backed by Richard Branson's Virgin empire, and is currently undergoing its first water trials.

It was originally designed and built for billionaire adventurer Steve Fossett, who wanted to make the world's first solo dive to the bottom of the Mariana Trench.

But after he died in a plane crash, former property investor Chris Welsh, who is based in California, bought the submarine and is now taking on the lonely challenge himself.

Chris said: "I've been working day and night for two years pursuing this. I'm really excited to get out there and do it - I can't wait.

"The rewards of this is breaking ground in so many ways - in raw human exploration, on bringing back science, and in getting a better understanding of our world."

The experimental sub was created and built by British engineer Graham Hawkes.

Fitted with wings and a tail fin, its design is based on that of a plane.

Chris Welsh hopes to "fly" down to the bottom of the trench, and break the record for the first lone dive there, later this year.

After this, he and the Virgin team also plan to plunge down four other trenches around the world, with the hope of reaching the deepest point in five oceans.

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