As the search for the missing Malaysian Airlines flight 370 continues, search crews have come across the remains of a shipwreck, scattered over the ocean floor more than 1000 km from the coast of Western Australia.
Flight MH370, which disappeared mysteriously on March 8th, 2014 on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, is believed to have crashed somewhere in the Southern Indian Ocean. The flight, which was carrying 239 passengers on what should have been a routine flight, is believed to have run out of fuel and dropped into the waters below. Any sign of the plane’s remains, however, has as yet eluded officials seeking to uncover the details of the incident. Four ships are under contract to the Malaysian and Australian governments to examine the area deemed most likely to encompass the plane’s remnants.
Fugro Survey, a division of a Dutch company which was hired by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau to search for the jet’s remains, has confirmed with certainty that the underwater debris did not come from the plane. After sonar equipment detected the cluster of fragments nearly 4 kilometers down, officials decided to take a closer look at the findings. Though they were fairly positive that the objects did not come from the jet, they brought in an autonomous underwater vehicle to gather more information. Images gathered by the search mission showed that the remains, which appear to include an anchor, coal, and possible a ship’s bell, confirmed their suspicions.
In response to the discovery, Peter Foley, the Director of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau’s Operational Search for Flight 370, has said in a statement that, “It’s a fascinating find, but it’s not what we’re looking for”. He continued on to state that the searchers are “not pausing in the search for MH370, in fact the vessels have already moved on to continue the mission”. Last month, the Australian and Malaysian governments agreed to double the search area if the plane is not found by the end of May. At this point, the Dutch investigators have probed over 60 percent of the approximately 60,000 square kilometer seabed in the primary research area, to no avail.
Though officials have little information on the previously-uncharted shipwreck, they have passed the information on to marine archaeologists for analysis. Michael McCarthy, a curator at the West Australian Maritime Museum, has said that the wreck is likely that of a mid-to-late 19th century cargo ship, but that it could be one of hundreds. Identification, therefore, would be a struggle “unless you had a complete catalogue of all the ones lost”. Given the lack of uniformity in the maintenance of records at the time, however, this would be next to impossible to compile.
One positive confirmation of the wreck’s discovery is that the exploratory technology being employed by the search team does, in fact, work. Foley commented that the finding has “shown that if there’s a debris field in the search area, we’ll find it.”
While the weather worsens as the winter months approach, the search continues.