MH370: Search goes underwater, focus on 600km arc of ocean floor

  • Nation
  • Tuesday, 08 Apr 2014

PERTH: The hunt for missing Flight MH370 could soon head to the ocean floor using an autonomous sonar vessel after possible black box signals were detected.

A month to the day since the Boeing 777 disappeared, retired Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, who heads the Joint Agency Coordinating Centre, warned that hopes of finding surface debris were fading and that sonic "pings" detected by the Australian naval ship Ocean Shield were the best lead.

Houston told ABC radio Tuesday that once the position of the signals was pinpointed, autonomous underwater vessel Bluefin-21 would be deployed to the ocean floor to search for wreckage.

And this could happen soon.

"I haven't had the discussion this morning, we'll be having that discussion a little later on," he told ABC radio.

"I imagine we'd be getting very close to that point."

The search is now focusing on a 600-kilometre (370-mile) arc of the southern Indian Ocean, far off the West Australian coast.

Houston announced Monday that Ocean Shield had detected underwater signals consistent with aircraft "black boxes", calling it the "most promising lead" so far.

The apparent signals breakthrough came as the clock ticks past the 30-day lifespan of the emergency beacons of the two data recorders from the Malaysia Airlines jet, which vanished on March 8 with 239 people on board en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

"As a consequence there is a chance the locator beacon is about to cease transmission, or has ceased transmission," Houston said.

"I think it's absolutely imperative to find something else and hopefully when we put the autonomous vehicle down, its capability is such that it'll be able to find wreckage.

"Unfortunately with the passage of time, oceanic drift and all the rest of it - particularly as a cyclone went through that area in the last few days - the chances of finding anything on the surface are diminishing with time."

Houston explained that the 4,500m depth of the ocean floor was the absolute operating limit for a Bluefin-21, which is designed for deep sea surveying and can carry video cameras.

"It can't go deeper than that, so it's quite incredible how finely balanced all of this is," he said.

"It's a long, painstaking process, particularly when you start searching the depths of the ocean floor."

Up to eleven military planes, three civilian planes and 14 ships were Tuesday set to take part in the unprecedented search 2,200 kilometres northwest of Perth. - AFP

Limited time offer:
Just RM5 per month.

Monthly Plan


Billed as RM5/month for the 1st 6 months then RM13.90 thereafters.

Annual Plan


Billed as RM148.00/year

1 month

Free Trial

For new subscribers only

Cancel anytime. No ads. Auto-renewal. Unlimited access to the web and app. Personalised features. Members rewards.
Follow us on our official WhatsApp channel for breaking news alerts and key updates!

Next In Nation

Toddler drowns in Seri Iskandar varsity lake
Malaysia exported 1.5 million arowana worth RM78mil in 2023, says Fisheries DG
Sabah’s air quality unaffected by Mt Ruang eruption, says state Health Dept director
Flights to and from Sabah back to normal, says MAHB
KLIA shooter was collecting medical report for new job in Saudi, say cops
Students required to declare health status before joining in school activities, says Negri Education Dept
Anwar signs autographs, meets with visitors at Madani Raya event in Sabah
Hanif Omar a 'legendary' policeman, says IGP
Errant cops nabbed a second time for extorting travellers at JB checkpoint
Sabah to soon get cardiology centre, says PM

Others Also Read