Crews searching for the lost Malaysia Airliner Flight 370 made an unexpected find on Wednesday. They discovered the remains of a previously uncharted shipwreck.
Over a Year Later, the Malaysia Flight Search Continues
More than a year after the Malaysia Airliner Flight 370 disappeared over the Indian Ocean on March 8, 2014, search crews continue to scour the ocean floor for the missing Malaysia flight airliner. The jet was traveling from Beijing, China, to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, when it went off course and subsequently disappeared over the Indian Ocean, taking all 239 people on board with it.
Crews under the direction of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, the department in charge of the search for the Malaysia airliner, have covered approximately 75% of the original search area. The area covers 23,000 square miles of the Southern Indian Ocean where the sea is well known for deep ocean floors, hostile seas, inhospitable climate and strong winds. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott was quoted as saying that the area is as close to being nowhere as is possible.
As winter is fast approaching, crews are doing their best to travel quickly and get in as much search time as possible before truly bad weather hits the area. The search ship carrying the autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) used to take photos of the shipwreck has already left the area as it has become too dangerous to launch the AUV.
Finding the Uncharted Shipwreck
While going through the normal routine, sonar detected a group of objects on the ocean floor at about 2.5 miles under the surface. Even though they felt the debris probably wasn’t the lost Malaysia airliner, they sent the AUV down to take a closer look. What it found was a collection of items, most that were small, but some others were as large as 20-feet long. The photos reveal what is determined to be the wreckage of a late 19th century cargo ship and what appear to be lumps of coal and an anchor, along with other debris. Marine archeologists are studying the images in hopes of identifying the ship.
West Australian Maritime Museum senior maritime archeologist, Michael McCarthy noted that the ship is one of hundreds that sank in that area of the Indian Ocean and that without someone going to travel there and then the trouble and expense of taking a closer look, the wreck may not be identified. Director of the Operational Search for Flight 370, Peter Foley, stated that the search for the Malaysia flight was never stopped and that search crews have already moved on to searching other areas. He stated that the find is fascinating, but it isn’t what they were looking for.
However, on a positive note, Paul Kennedy, who is the director of a Dutch company hired by the government of Australia to help in the search for the Malaysia flight, Fugro Survey, said that the find gives them a lot of confidence. Speaking from one of the search vessels, he said that they now know that the sonar will pick up very small pieces of metal far down on the sea floor and that the pieces of the MH370 airliner will be much bigger than that.