Being well on the way to conquering commercial flights to space, but having lost the race to the bottom of the ocean – Titanic director James Cameron this week made history as by completing the first solo trip by submarine to the deepest point of the ocean – Richard Branson's Virgin is now looking to conquer something else entirely: the very core of the earth.
Or so the British tycoon would have us believe, with this particular adventure getting the press release treatment come April 1st. “Only 500 people have been to space, only three people have been to the bottom of the ocean, but no one has ever attempted to journey to the core of an active volcano. Until now” Virgin boasts through the project's dedicated website, VirginVolcanic.com, in a tease of the 'main' announcement tomorrow. “Using patented carbon-carbon materials pioneered for deep space exploration, Virgin is proud to announce a revolutionary new vehicle, VVS1, which will be capable of plunging three people into the molten lava core of an active volcano,” Volcanic's mission statement reads further.
If the April 1 signifier didn't give you a sighter of being the victim of a sly April fooling, just take a look at who Branson is set to be belting up with on its maiden voyage. Black Eyed Peas' will.i.am, actor/producer Seth Green, award-winning documentary film-maker Barbara Kopple and the Oscar-winning Tom Hanks are all set to join him on the way to the Earth's molten core. The latter, Virgin is keen to remind us, starred in the film 'Joe Versus The Volcano'. Apt. It doesn't stop there however, Virgin seems to be taking a prodding stab at Mr Cameron's deep sea voyage with indications that the project will make up the subject of a documentary “utilising ground-breaking 3D technology called VD”. Will.i.am, meanwhile, is on “volcanic soundtrack” duties, which will be “recorded entirely inside a live active volcano”.
“What can I say, I 'lava' challenge!” enthuses Richard Branson himself on the site. “I have long held a fascination with volcanoes, having read Jules Verne's Journey To The Centre Of The Earth as a young boy.” But Virgin Volcanic isn't the only thing on Branson's mind. Like any successful entrepreneur, his mind is focussed on even bigger and better things. At the same time the Volcanic teases emerged, Branson revealed on his personal blog some of the advances he's made with his Virgin-branded time machine, like some crackpot descendent of Christopher Lloyd's Doc Emmett Brown. “I've found that we can now go backwards in time but not forwards. Fortunately we can get back to the present,” he summarised. The posting was followed by two images; the first showing Branson standing within the time machine in full lab coat, and the second his emergence from the capsule back in 1972, dressed in shocking purple flares, roll-top jumper and a copy of Tubular Bells, the first album released by Virgin Records around the same time.
According to the project's main page, visiting the cores of the five most active volcanoes is the very first step for Virgin Volcanic. The statement describes how the technology can be developed to be a clean, safe and fast-alternative to trans-continental commercial aviation that would involve going through the Earth to reach destination 'Earthports' across the globe. “Experts predict,” it further identifies, “that one could travel from Hawaii to Naples in a couple of hours via the molten lava flows.” The first Virgin Volcanic trips are scheduled for 2015 *wink* *wink*.