The Mariana Trench, famous for being the deepest area in the Pacific Ocean (Or any ocean, for that matter) has rarely been explored, the most recent journey being made by director James Cameron in the submersible DeepSea Challenger. The deepest part of the Trench is known as the Challenger Deep, which is reportedly 36,070 feet deep. However, a new craft is being developed to become the next submarine to reach the Challenger Deep, known as the DeepFlight Challenger by Virgin Oceanic.
The DeepFlight Challenger (Not to be confused with the DeepSea Challenger) was initially planned in 2000 by Graham Hawkes from Hawkes Ocean Technologies, then development began later in 2005. It’s first test was in 2007, though progress was delayed due to design flaws and resumed in 2011. It’s most recent test was in February of 2012, located in the Alameda Air Naval Station in California. The submarine is now owned by Virgin Oceanic, a subsidiary of the Virgin Group corporation. Virgin Group was founded by Sir Richard Branson in 1989 with its headquarters located in London, England.
The craft weighs roughly 8,000 pounds and resembles an airplane more than a standard submersible. The dome for the cockpit utilizes quartz to remain strong and durable at great depths, and will have greater maneuverability than other submarines designed for similar purposes. The entire DeepFlight Challenger design is modular and is capable of easily being modified for future expeditions that may require more than one person. Another key factor in DeepFlight Challenger’s design is it’s adaptability. A DeepFlight Challenger craft purchased by explorer Chris Welsh will be operated from the Cheyenne, his personal catamaran.
DeepFlight Super Falcon, also developed by Virgin Oceanic, is planned to take submarine exploration technology to yet another level, despite the already revolutionary DeepFlight Challenger not having made its first official dive to the Mariana Trench. One of the first submersibles to more closely resemble a bulky aircraft with stubby wings than an actual submarine, the DeepFlight Challenger could be the next successful expedition to the Mariana Trench, a mostly inaccessible and unexplored, though fascinating part of the ocean.