NEW YORK — British billionaire Richard Branson may have lost his race to the bottom of the ocean, but not his sense of humor, declaring Friday a faux plan to top his adventure rivals by voyaging to the center of the Earth.

The impossible journey was announced, tongue jammed in cheek, with the seriousness of a real campaign.

"Sir Richard Branson to launch journeys to the center of the Earth through Virgin Volcanic" the website claims.

An early clue that this is a joke is that a press release from Branson's PR people cannot be published until April 1.

The announcement comes days after Hollywood director James Cameron grabbed headlines by making history's first solo -- and real -- trip by submarine to the deepest point of the world's oceans: the Mariana Trench in the Pacific.

It was an exploit that Branson, known for his pursuit of ballooning and sailing records, had had his eye on too.

Never mind: Cameron will eat his heart out hearing that Branson says he'll take trendy singer of the Black Eyed Peas in a special capsule down into a volcano and from there to the molten center of the planet.

"I have a long held a fascination with volcanoes having read Jules Verne's 'Journey to the Centre of the Earth' as a young boy," Branson said on the website. "Volcanoes are the next great unexplored terrain. What can I say, I lava challenge!"

Despite his disappointment over the Mariana Trench, perhaps Branson is also a fan of another Verne novel: "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea."

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Photo AFP/File, Paul J. Richards