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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

MH370 search: No plane but a 19th century shipwreck

Wreck of metal-hulled ship believed to have been located 3.7km below the surface of the southern Indian Ocean
The hunt for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 has uncovered a shipwreck deep underwater, officials said on Wednesday, the second such discovery since the search began almost two years ago.

The wreck is an iron or steel-hulled vessel believed to have gone down at the turn of the 19th century, and has been discovered 3.7km down.

One of three ships searching for MH370, Havila Harmony, used an autonomous underwater vehicle to further examine the find and captured high-resolution sonar imagery.

The Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC) said: “The Shipwreck Galleries of the Western Australian Museum have conducted a preliminary review of some sonar imagery and advised that the vessel is likely to be a steel/iron vessel dating from the turn of the 19th century.”

An Australian-led team continues to scour the southern Indian Ocean seabed in the hope of finding the final resting place of the aircraft, which vanished on 8 March 2014 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board.

In July 2015, a two-metre-long (7ft) flaperon wing part washed up on a beach on the Indian Ocean island of Reunion and was confirmed to be from the flight, marking the first concrete evidence that it crashed.

Nothing has been found since, despite more than 80,000 square kilometres of the seafloor being searched, based on satellite analysis of the jet’s likely trajectory after it diverted from its flight path.

The on 19 December 2015, an “anomalous sonar contact” was identified by the JACC, with analysis suggesting the object was likely to be man-made, probably a shipwreck.

It is the second wreck found during the hunt. In May 2015, sonar imagery revealed an anchor, along with other objects searchers said were man-made as well as what are thought to be lumps of coal.

Investigators believe MH370 ran out of fuel and crashed somewhere in the southern Indian Ocean, sparking one of the biggest mysteries in aviation history.

Speculation on the cause of the plane’s disappearance has focused primarily on a possible mechanical or structural failure, a hijacking or terror plot, or rogue pilot action.

Despite the satellite evidence pointing to the plane going down, many Chinese relatives of those on board remain sceptical, and are convinced their loved ones are alive, perhaps being held at an unknown location.

Analysts have said that only by locating the crash site and recovering the black box will authorities be able to solve the mystery of why the plane went down.

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