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Challenger Deep as a tourist site? Modern-day Jules Vernes say 'yes'

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“Now you and I can go somewhere like the Bahamas and hop on a sub to see what’s down there. Kids can see a tweet from James Cameron at the bottom of the ocean, they can look at images of the Titanic mapped in 3-D. Technology is allowing us to peer into areas of this world we only dreamed about before,” he says.

The queue to claim more "firsts" is already forming behind Cameron, whose dive made him the first to journey solo to the deepest point on Earth, 52 years after US Navy Lt. Don Walsh and Swiss oceanographer Jacques Piccard got there in the bathyscaphe Trieste.

At Triton Submarines in Vero Beach, Fla., engineers have designed a sub that they envisage one day taking adventurers – whether ocean scientists on private missions, or commercial passengers paying as much as $250,000 a ticket for the ultimate joyride – to the Hadel depths. It is working on a reality show to chronicle its work and inspire excitement.

“We want to bring the ocean to the world in an inspiring and sustained way that will make kids go, 'Wow, I want to be an explorer, I want to know more about the ocean,’ ” says vice president Marc Deppe. “We want kids carrying submarine lunchboxes to school, wearing submarine shirts. When you’re a kid and you see something cool, that’s what sells the dream.”

At home on the island of Necker, in the British Virgin Islands, Sir Richard Branson is virtually a neighbor of the 28,373-foot (8,648-meter) Puerto Rico Trench, the deepest point in the Atlantic Ocean. He is not content to just sit and wonder what might be down there. He wants to conquer it as part of a venture known as the Five Dives project, which aims to send a manned submersible to the lowest recess in each of five oceans.

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