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

Nigeria Incumbent in Tight Spot as Poll Nears

Muhammadu Buhari is running a strong challenge to Goodluck Jonathan, amid a faltering economy and Boko Haram security worries More

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo tells VOA that despite her fame, life is still a struggle as she waits for government's promise of support to arrive More

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

At least seven different indigenous groups in Ratanakiri depend mainly on forest products for their survival, say they face loss of their land, traditional way of life 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More