News / Asia

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

In this Thursday, April 17, 2014 photo provided by the Australian Defense Force, Evan Tanner, bottom right, and Chris Minor from Phoenix International conduct pre-deployment checks.
In this Thursday, April 17, 2014 photo provided by the Australian Defense Force, Evan Tanner, bottom right, and Chris Minor from Phoenix International conduct pre-deployment checks.
The next phase in the search for a missing Malaysia Airlines passenger jet, believed to be at the bottom of the Indian Ocean, is likely to test the limits of existing technology.
 
Australian officials say they are consulting with counterparts in China, Malaysia and the United States before deciding on what direction to take next in the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, missing since March 8.
 
Australia’s prime minister Tony Abbott says a new search strategy will be needed if a U.S. Navy robotic submarine is unable to locate any trace of the 63-meter long jetliner on the seabed floor. Abbot told reporters Wednesday that the search will not be abandoned “until we have done everything we can to solve this mystery.”
 
Australia’s defense minister, David Johnston, says an announcement is expected next week and it is likely to involve “more capable” side-scan sonar devices.
 
Ron Allum, an Australian who designs vehicles for deep sea exploration, tells VOA such technology as described by the defense minister has a proven track record.
 
“That’s a vehicle that was used to find the wrecks of Titanic, Bismarck and HMS Sydney," Allum explained. "I thought that would have been probably brought into play earlier.”
 
Allum has dived in a submarine to a depth of 5,000 meters to help film the wreck of the Bismarck, a German battleship sunk by the British in the North Atlantic in 1941.
 
The U.S. Navy’s Bluefin-21 submersible has combed nearly all of a 310-square-kilometer search area on the bed of the Indian Ocean, off Australia’s west coast, near where signals believed to be from the plane’s black box were previously detected. So far, there has been no indication that its three-dimensional sonar map of the ocean floor has revealed anything relevant.
 
Much of the seabed where the submersible has been deployed is uncharted and as deep as seven kilometers.
 
Allum says existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around six kilometers.
 
“A towed device is going to be really at the limit of the cable, as well," he noted, "because if you lower a steel cable into the deepest part of the ocean it will break under its own weight. So the cable length can become an issue.”
 
But Allum says looking for the plane’s fuselage at that depth would be easier with a towed device than relying on the remotely operated robot submersible vehicles.
 
“With a towed side scan you’ve got immediate feedback, it’s not limited by batteries," Allum explained. "It doesn’t have to come back to the surface to be downloaded. It can operate 24/7 behind a ship.”
 
An air search involving 10 planes was suspended for a second consecutive day Wednesday due to poor visibility and rough seas below.
 
However a dozen ships continued to search an area covering 38,000 square kilometers. No verified debris or oil from the plane has been spotted since it veered off course on March 8. Photographs of an unidentified two-and-a-half meter long metallic object which washed ashore 10 kilometers east of Augusta in western Australia are being analyzed by specialists.
 
The Malaysia Airlines flight, from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, was carrying 239 passengers and crew. An unprecedented analysis of routine engine diagnostic signals from the Boeing 777 jet to satellites led searchers to a remote section of ocean far off the airliner’s scheduled course.

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

You May Like

Video Analysts: Beijing Parade a 'Bazaar' of Stolen Technology

Show commemorating victory over Japan in World War II involved long, medium and short range missiles, a range of tanks and 200 fighter aircraft More

Bernie Sanders Surge Reflects US Shift on Socialism

Although most analysts say it is unlikely he will get the Democratic nomination, Sanders' campaign opens up questions and issues that are otherwise marginalized More

Video On IS Frontline, Kurdish Fighters Ready for Offensive

Peshmerga soldiers say although they need more heavy artillery, they are poised to take the fight to the Islamic State extremists on their turf More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: alu from: china
May 16, 2014 7:22 AM
I think it is so foolish to burn billions of dollars in searching that jet by Aus. which is only suspected in a unconfirmed place. Actually, maybe it is more efficient to think how to force Malaysia officers to speak all the truth clearly. Their behavior implies me they are not worth being trusted.

by: meanbill from: USA
April 25, 2014 12:48 PM
ONE must wonder, if Malaysian Flight 380, "the Boeing 777-2H6ER an original Super Ranger" isn't on a big airfield, in a big hanger, being repainted with the extra fuel tanks, for a covert mission on a particular country?
A Boeing 777-2H6ER Super Ranger can fly over 10,823 nautical miles, (20,044 km), __ (and if it was hijacked, why crash it in the ocean?) __ and if it's not in the ocean, where is it, and for what purpose would it be use for? --- Makes you think, doesn't it?

by: LieutenantCharlie from: USA
April 23, 2014 9:25 PM
If there was no debris field floating along with the current, then there was no ocean crash,....100% of ocean crashes have a debris field that sometimes lasts for months,....in modern aircraft the seats are floatation devices, the pillows for your head float,....hundreds of other items from the kitchen to the cargo hole float,....so where is the debris field?
In Response

by: red phan from: us
April 24, 2014 2:26 PM
have to start all over again Malaysia Flight MH370 May Have Landed Somewhere Else; Search May Have to Start Over From Vietnam's jungle
Ho Chi Minh (trail)

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outragei
X
Henry Ridgwell
September 04, 2015 11:36 AM
The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outrage

The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Russians Observe 11th Anniversary of Beslan School Attack

This week, Russians have been observing the 11th anniversary of the attack by Islamic militants on a school in Russia's North Caucasus region that killed more than 330 hostages, including 186 children. The three-day siege and massacre that started on September 1, 2004 took place in Beslan, a town in the republic of North Ossetia, and is one of the bloodiest terrorist acts ever in Russia. VOA's Mike Richman reports.
Video

Video Native Americans Debate: Father Serra, Saint or Sinner?

Pope Francis will canonize an 18th century missionary to Spanish California during a papal visit to the United States this month.  But some Native Americans have criticized the elevation to sainthood of the missionary priest, Junipero Serra. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video China Announces Troop Cuts at WWII Parade

Chinese President Xi Jinping Thursday announced plans to cut the world’s largest military force by 300,000 troops. The announcement was made during a massive military parade to commemorate victory over Japan in World War II. The event was shunned by most Western leaders and for some is raising fresh concerns about China’s military ambitions. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.

VOA Blogs