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Your Next Big Vacation Adventure

No, it's not Chernobyl, although the Ukraine is encouraging tourism there. Private companies are poised to take over space travel and now the newest thing in travel thrills is private submarines, which are heading for the abysmal deep, where the ocean is in perpetual darkness and strange marine creatures lurk.

The billionaires and millionaires who are investing in mini-subs, costing $7 to 40 million, include James Cameron (the director of "Titanic" and Richard Branson (the CEO of Virgin Airlines, which is also planning to undertake private space travel). These people are buying subs the way other people buy yachts--to entertain their friends--but it's also developing into a major tourist business.

Two of them--a billionaire and a near billionaire--are each considering buying one or two mini-subs at a cost of $15 million apiece. They plan to charge tourists $250,000 a seat (which sounds like a lot, but is much less than the early space tourists paid).

In the August 2nd edition of the New York Times, William J. Broad quotes filmmaker James Cameron (who directed "Titanic") as saying, "I can think of no greater fantasy than to be an explorer and see what no human eye has seen before." But he wants to make sure the subs are safe before he takes the plunge: "It's not like you can call up AAA to come get you." Broad quotes Branson as saying, "The last great challenge for humans is to explore the depths of our planet's oceans."

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