Richard Branson's quest to dive to the deepest points of the world's oceans has been temporarily shelved. A spokesman for Virgin Oceanic, the company formed by Branson in 2011 to tackle the mission, cited safety concerns as the motive.

"We were not sure [DeepFlight Challenger] would make it down," he told The Independent. "That project has been put on ice while we look at other technology that works." 

Branson, still reeling from the tragic blow to his space tourism company in October, hinted in August that Virgin Oceanic may have been ahead of its time. 

"Starting new ventures takes a 'screw it let's do it' attitude and finding the right partners to help us achieve the unthinkable," he wrote about the ocean venture. "However, business is also about knowing when to change tack."

Virgin Oceanic's DeepFlight Challenger sub was originally built so that wealthy explorer Steve Fossett could dive the 36,000-foot deep Mariana Trench. The technology was later acquired by explorer Chris Welsh, who approached Branson about becoming a partner. 

In an interview with The Telegraph, Adam Wright, president of the company that built and designed the sub, said Virgin's vision did not match the technical specifications for which the craft was originally built. 

“The Challenger was built for a very specialised contract with Steve Fossett. It was designed for one dive down to the Mariana Trench. The idea was to set the record for the deepest dive and then give it to the Smithsonian to put on display."

Wright added that Virgin's five-dive idea was a severe safety risk. "The problem is the strength of the vessel does decrease after each dive. It is strongest on the first dive," he said.

Despite the setback, Branson fully expects to keep forging ahead on his dreams of exploring the world's oceans. 

"There is more urgent work to do on the ground so that one day we can get to the bottom of the ocean," he wrote. "We continue to believe in the exciting possibilities for scientific research and oceanic exploration – and we will support those efforts by first doing something equally challenging: changing human behaviour. It is the only way to clean up our collective act and preserve the life force that is the ocean."

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Michael d'Estries ( @michaeldestries ) covers science, technology, art, and the beautiful, unusual corners of our incredible world.

Richard Branson shelves deep sea exploration plans
Billionaire's Virgin Oceanic dreams put on hold while he considers 'new technology to help us explore the ocean.'