A TOP oceanographer from Australia’s national science agency CSIRO has expressed optimism that missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 will be found within a month, after a new search effort kicked off last week.
Private US-based company Ocean Infinity has begun its contribution to the search for MH370– to date the single largest in aviation history. The flight disappeared en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing in March 2014 with 239 people on board.
“We’re hopeful that they (Ocean Infinity) can find the aircraft within the first month of the search,” David Griffin of CSIRO told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
“Malaysia has given them three months to complete the search. So we’re into the first week now. We could hear something from them in the next couple of weeks,” he said.
The Malaysian government has agreed to pay Ocean Infinity up to US$70 million if it finds the plane within 90 days. The search vessel, the Seabed Constructor, set off from Durban in South Africa on Jan 3.
Investigators believe someone may have deliberately switched off MH370’s transponder before diverting it over the Indian Ocean. Debris has been collected from Indian Ocean islands and Africa’s east coast and at least three pieces have been confirmed as coming from the missing plane.
Ocean Infinity’s vessel carries eight “autonomous underwater vehicles”, or submersible craft, that will scour the seabed with scanning equipment for information to be sent back for analysis. The Seabed Constructor began its search on Monday, Malaysia’s Department of Civil Aviation said in a statement.
A swarm of submarine drones will search the depths for flight MH370 pic.twitter.com/A0gnLMk5F0
— The Economist (@TheEconomist) January 27, 2018
The eight submersibles can search a wide area of sea floor much faster than the tethered scanners used in previous searches, Charitha Pattiaratchi, professor of coastal oceanography at the University of Western Australia, told Reuters.
“If they don’t find anything in the 90 days … I think that would be the end for decades – this is like the final effort, if you like,” he said.
Australia, China and Malaysia ended a fruitless AU$200-million (US$159.38 million) search of a 120,000 sq km area in January last year, despite investigators urging the search be extended to a 25,000 sq km area further to the north.
Additional reporting from Reuters.