MH370 hunt: Australian ship spots oil slick; robotic sub to search underwater

By Supriya Jha | Last Updated: Monday, April 14, 2014 - 20:21

Zee Media Bureau/Supriya Jha

Perth: After the four transmissions received by the investigators in the Indian Ocean, the next lead in the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 could be the discovery of oil slick detected in the search area.

The oil slick was detected by the Australian Navy vessel Ocean Shield yesterday in the vicinity of the detections made, said Joint Agency Coordination Centre chief Angus Houston.

He added that a towed pinger locator aboard Australian ship Ocean Shield will stop working and instead a robotic submarine be deployed on Monday evening.

"We haven`t had a single detection in six days," Australian chief search coordinator Angus Houston said. "It`s time to go underwater."

The Autonomous Underwater Vehicle, Bluefin-21, which is equipped with side scan sonar, will take pictures from reflections of sound and produce a high resolution, three dimensional map of the sea floor.

Houston informed that each mission conducted by the Bluefin-21 will take a minimum of 24 hours to complete.

The robotic submarine will take two hours to descend to the bottom of the ocean and will take 16 hours there. It will then take two hours to return to the surface and four hours to download and analyse the data collected.

Bluefin-21 will cover an area of approximately five kilometres by eight kilometres, an area of 40 square kilometres in its first mission.

After the four pings detected so far, which are consistent with the frequency of black box, the oil slick is another lead to be investigated in the hunt of the missing jet.

“The oil slick is approximately 5,500 metres down-wind and down-sea from the vicinity of the detections picked up by the Towed Pinger Locator on Ocean Shield,” said Houston.

He added that a sample of about two litres had been collected for testing to confirm if the oil slick belongs to the missing Malaysia jet.

when asked about the probability of the oil slick belonging to a different ship, Huston answered, “It`s very close to where the transmissions are coming from and we`ll investigate it and that will take a little bit of time given that we are in the middle of the Indian Ocean.”

“We don`t think it`s from the ships...So it`s another lead to pursue and something that must be investigated,” he added.

The investigators are in Day 38 of the search as Malaysian jet Flight 370 disappeared from the radars on March 8 with 239 people on board.

Today`s search is roping in upto to 11 military aircraft, one civil aircraft and 15 ships, said the JACC.

The visual search area planned by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority covers approximately 47,644 square kilometres. The centre of the search areas lies approximately 2,200 kilometres north west of Perth.

Even as the missing jet`s black box batteries are past their shelf life, Australian Defence Vessel Ocean Shield with the Towed Pinger Locator will continue to hear for any fading frequencies from the aircraft black boxes.

Also, involved in the search are AP-3C Orions and British ship HMS Echo.
The Beijing-bound Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 disappeared on Saturday over the South China Sea between Malaysia and Vietnam after it lost contact with the ground controllers at 1:30 am on that fateful day. 



First Published: Monday, April 14, 2014 - 14:22

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