4 Feb
Richard Branson and Graham Hawke collaborate to take $113,000 per week from rich tourists

The newly developed $655,000 Necker Nymph aero submarine will be stationed on Richard Branson’s 74-acre private island in the British Virgin Islands. The three-person sub was developed by the visionary Graham Hawkes of Hawkes Ocean Technologies, and similarly to his creations the Deep Flight Challenger and the Super Falcon, the Necker Nymph essentially “flies” underwater, using his positive buoyancy system.

Hawkes’ background stems from a history of building rovers, including the Deep Rover, used in James Cameron’s Aliens of the Deep IMAX films. But he’s more than an engineer – he’s a proper adventurer in his own right. While test piloting the Deep Rover, Hawkes captured the world record for deepest solo dive (3,000 feet). Then in 1995 he built his first winged sub, the Deep Flight 1. Since then, Hawkes has built four generations of Deep Flight submersibles, including the only full ocean depth-capable submersible (down to 37,000 feet) built for adventurer Steve Fossett, the Deep Flight Challenger. Unfortunately, Fossett died in a plane crash over the Sierra Nevadas only four weeks before testing was to begin on his sub. That was in September of 2007, and the Challenger has been caught in legal limbo since, unable to enter the water.

From the ashes of the Challenger rose the Super Falcon, designed specifically for the super-yacht market. Fittingly, the prototype was built for investment capitalist Tom Perkins’ Maltese Falcon, the largest sailboat in the world at 290 feet. “We were supposed to train him for two weeks out in the Sea of Cortez, but after only two dives he announced he was done,” recalls Hawkes. “And he really was – he was flying that thing really smooth after only one hour.” So after stints collaborating with uber-entrepreneurs James Cameron, Steve Fossett and Tom Perkins, it’s only natural that he’d collaborate with Virgin’s Richard Branson.

With a cruising speed between 2-5 knots, the Necker Nymph is piloted from any of the three side-by-side seating positions — the pilot given joystick control of pitch, roll and yaw, with a throttle lever for forward and reverse thrust. For well-heeled tourists, you can rent the Necker Nymph for only $25K per week…that’s after you pay $88,000 for seven nights aboard the Necker Belle, from which it is launched. The carbon fibre catamaran can hit 20 knots, has a crew of seven and luxurious berths for eight guests.

Hit the Jump for several videos of Graham Hawkes describing his creations (including a very interesting TED speech), as well as pics of the Necker Belle and Branson’s private island.

Branson’s private British Virgin Isle…

Graham Hawkes’ TED speech…

An HP video with a closer look at some of Hawkes’ creations…

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