Elon Musk has SpaceX, now Ray Dalio has OceanX — and he says it’s more exciting

Ray Dalio speaking at the 2017 Delivering Alpha conference in New York on Sept. 12, 2017.
David A. Grogan | CNBC

Billionaire Ray Dalio thinks that "ocean exploration is much more exciting and much more important than space exploration" — and his latest project aims to convince the rest of the world of that too.

Dalio, who runs the world's largest hedge fund (Bridgewater Associates manages over $160 billion), is teaming with "Titanic" director and deep-sea documentarian James Cameron on a new project, called OceanX. Ocean X will fund new research and exploration of the oceans along with media, such as documentary films and virtual reality content.

OceanX "will enable explorers and researchers to explore the unseen ocean, map uncharted areas of the world, observe rare deep-sea creatures and pursue scientific and medical breakthroughs — and then bring all of these wonders back to the wider world through captivating media," the hedge fund billionaire announced in a press release on Wednesday.

The name "OceanX" calls to mind SpaceX, Tesla CEO and fellow billionaire Elon Musk's space exploration venture, which is one of the world's most valuable privately-held companies (at $21 billion) and is working toward becoming the first private space company to reach Mars. That could explain why Dalio has been prone to tout the importance of ocean exploration over space exploration.

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"To me, the ocean remains humanity's most important, and most under-examined, treasure," Dalio said at the launch event on Tuesday at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, referring to the fact that the vast majority of earth's oceans have still yet to be explored.

Increased exploration of the world's oceans could result in any number of scientific breakthroughs, Dalio went on to explain. "[We can] unlock cures for diseases, grow new foods, discover medicines, create new industries and understand the planet in ways that we never [have] before," he said.

As the founder of OceanX, Dalio is working with Cameron and a group of media, science and philanthropic partners such as BBC Studios, Bloomberg Philanthropies and the National Geographic Society. The project is aimed at increasing awareness of ocean life and previously unexplored ocean terrain around the world.

Dalio and his son Mark, who is serving as creative director of OceanX's media efforts, also screened a new 3-D nature documentary film, "Oceans: Our Blue Planet," that was co-produced by OceanX Media along with BBC Earth and was filmed by the BBC team behind the 2017 series "Blue Planet II."

OceanX is building what it calls "the most advanced science and media vessel ever built, the Alucia 2," a ship that will debut next year with marine research labs, deep-sea submersible vehicles, helicopters and drones, as well as "cutting-edge media equipment." Cameron, who has invented his own underwater camera equipment for his own deep-sea dives, is serving as a consultant for the ship's media center and film-making equipment, OceanX said in its announcement.

The project "will reignite global passion for and curiosity about the ocean in our global, digitally-connected age," Cameron said in a statement.

OceanX plans to capture the work of the scientists and filmmakers aboard the Alucia 2 with a television series that he compared to the classic nature series "The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau." The "contemporary version" of that series will include content created by OceanX for social media, virtual classrooms, museum exhibits and virtual reality, Dalio said.

Dalio has shown an interest in supporting oceanic exploration for several years, having donated $5 million in 2012, along with his personal yacht and other equipment, to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, which is also now a partner of OceanX.

"Every day, every moment, we can be excited by the ocean," Dalio said on Tuesday.

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