A SATELLITE scanning the Indian Ocean for remnants of missing Malaysian Airlines flight 370 has found a possible debris field containing 122 objects.
A senior Malaysian official called the discovery “the most credible lead that we have” in the search for the plane, which left Kuala Lumpur for Beijing on 8 March.
On Monday, the Malaysian government said that British satellite data indicated the plane had gone down in the Indian Ocean, killing all 239 people aboard.
Malaysian defence minister Hishammuddin Hussein said the objects were more than 1,550 miles south-west of Australia, near where other satellites previously detected objects. The objects ranged in length from one to twenty-five yards long.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority, which is co-ordinating the search on Malaysia’s behalf, said that three objects had been spotted - two apparent pieces of rope, and a blue object - but none were seen on a second pass.
It remains uncertain whether the objects came from the plane or from something else, such as a cargo ship.
Earlier today, 12 planes and five ships from the United States, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand resumed the hunt for any pieces of the jet after gale-force winds died down.
Although officials have narrowed the search area it is still estimated at 622,000 square miles, more than six times the total size of the UK.
Australian prime minister Tony Abbott said: “We’re throwing everything we have at this search.
“This is about the most inaccessible spot imaginable. It’s thousands of kilometres from anywhere, but nevertheless we are the closest nation. We are a capable nation. We will do what we can to solve this riddle.”
‘Defining the haystack’
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority said the latest search would focus on 30,900 square miles of ocean. The search area is about 1,550 miles southwest of Perth.
Speaking in Perth, Australia’s deputy defence chief Air Marshal Mark Binskin said it was a massive challenge.
Air Marshal Binskin said: “We’re not searching for a needle in a haystack - we’re still trying to define where the haystack is.”
Various pieces of floating objects have been spotted south west of the coastal city, but none has been retrieved. If they are found to be from the plane, that may help investigators narrow the search for the wreckage of the plane.
‘Indication plane went down’
On Monday, Malaysian authorities said that an analysis of satellite data received after China, home to 153 of the passengers, has demanded that Malaysia turn over the satellite data used to determine the plane’s fate.
The airline’s chairman, Mohammed Nor Mohammed Yusof, said it may take time for further answers to become clear. He said: “The investigation still under way may yet prove to be even longer and more complex than it has been since March 8.”
The search for the wreckage and the plane’s flight data and cockpit voice recorders could take years, if it is ever successful.
Investigators took two years to find the black box from an Air France jet that crashed in the Atlantic Ocean during a flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris in 2009, despite search teams knowing within days where the crash site was.
David Ferreira, an oceanographer at the University of Reading, said little was known about the detailed topography of the seabed where the plane is believed to have crashed.
“We know much more about the surface of the moon than we do about the ocean floor in that part of the Indian Ocean,” he said.
Satellite data imprecise
Satellite information sent from MH370 did not provide an exact location of the plane’s last location. Malaysian defence minister Hishammuddin Hussein said the data was still being analysed “to attempt to determine the final position of the aircraft” and that an international working group of satellite and aircraft performance experts had been set up.
Investigators are looking at various possible reasons for the crash, including mechanical or electrical failure, hijacking, sabotage, terrorism or issues related to the mental health of the pilots or someone else on board.