A new submarine unveiled by Sir Richard Branson will be diving to five of the deepest depths in the world’s oceans in the next two years, a plan that may be expanded to offer deep-sea trips to wealthy tourists, he said.

Sir Richard, the billionaire adventurer behind the Virgin group of companies and the owner of Necker Island, announced his plans at a press conference in Newport Beach, California on April 4.

According to the website of his new company, Virgin Oceanic, the one-man sub’s first dive will be to a depth of almost seven miles — 36,201 feet — to the bottom of the Mariana Trench in the South Pacific, the deepest spot in the world. Chris Welsh, the company’s chief pilot, will make the dive.

Sir Richard plans to pilot the sub on its second dive — 28,232 feet — at the Puerto Rico Trench, northeast of Tortola.

See the April 14, 2011 edition for full coverage.