Satellite images show possible MH370 debris
March 20, 2014, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - Australian military aircraft flew over a remote area in the southern Indian Ocean and a cargo vessel was rerouted there to determine whether two large floating objects spotted by satellite are pieces of wreckage from a Malaysian jet missing for nearly two weeks.
March 20, 2014 By CBC News
No certain wreckage from Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 has been found
since it disappeared on March 8, sparking one of the largest search
efforts in aviation history and raising questions about what happened to
the plane carrying 239 people.
"It is credible enough to divert the research to this area on the
basis it provides a promising lead to what might be wreckage from the
debris field," said Air Commodore John McGarry of Australia's Department
of Defence at a news conference.
Satellite imagery analyzed by experts discovered two objects of a
"reasonable size" bobbing up and down in the southern Indian Ocean, said
John Young, general manager of Australia's Maritime Safety Authority.
The objects were spotted about 2,500 kilometres southwest of Perth, in
an area where the ocean is about 3,000 metres deep.
The largest object appears to be about 24 metres, he said — with the
second object being smaller at about five metres.
A number of smaller
items appear to be scattered around the large object, he said.
"This is a lead. It is probably the best lead we have right
now. But we need to get there, find them, see them, assess them to know
whether it’s really meaningful or not," he said.
The search for the objects could take time. Australian
authorities said one of the planes was unable to locate the debris
through clouds and rain, but that other planes would continue the hunt.
CBC meteorologist Jay Scotland said early Thursday that the weather
in the area was improving over the next few hours, and he expected clear
skies for 24 hours and possibly more.
An unprecedented multinational search for the plane has focused on
two vast corridors: one arcing north overland from Laos towards the
Caspian Sea, the other curving south across the Indian Ocean from west
of Indonesia's Sumatra island to west of Australia.
Malaysian Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said the larger,
established search will continue even as the Australian images are
investigated. However, the effort is mostly concentrated south of the equator over the vast Indian Ocean.
Out of a total of 29 aircraft, 18 ships and six ship-borne
helicopters deployed in the operation, only four aircraft are now
scouring the north.
Norwegian cargo vessel Hoeegh St. Petersburg was rerouted and has
arrived at the site in the Indian Ocean where the possible wreckage was
spotted, Haakon Svane of the Norwegian Shipowners' Association told The
"It did so at the request of the Australian maritime authorities and
it is currently taking part in the search operations," Svane said.
The ship, which transports cars, was on its way from South Africa to
Australia when it was rerouted. A Royal Australian Navy ship, which is
well-equipped for recovering objects, is still days away from the area.
Military planes from Australia, the U.S. and New Zealand have
been searching in a region over the southern Indian Ocean that was
narrowed down from 600,000 square kilometres to 305,000 square
"The most likely scenario is that an aircraft will find an
object, if it is findable, and then report back an accurate GPS
position," Young said. "And AMSA would task the ship to proceed to the
area and attempt to see it.
"That would be our first chance to get a close up look of
whatever the objects might be and progressively advance the
identification of whether they’re associated with the search or not."
Young warned that satellite images "do not always turn out to
be related to the search even if they look good, so we will hold our
views on that until they are sighted close-up."
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott earlier told Parliament about the debris.
Young said commercial satellites had been redirected in the hope of
getting higher resolution images. He did not say when that would happen.
The current images are not sharp enough to determine any markings.
The images were taken March 16, but Australian Air Commodore John McGarry said it took time to analyze them.
David Gallo, the U.S. project leader in the search for a missing Air France flight in 2009,
said based on the descriptions provided by officials of two larger
objects surrounded by multiple smaller objects, the discovery is
sounding increasingly like a debris field.
While debris would typically scatter, he said ocean experts who study
wind and waves have told him there is a pocket in the search area that
has been fairly calm over the past few days, making it possible for the
debris to have stuck closer together.
Based on the size described, Gallo predicts it could turn out
to be a piece of the plane's wing or fuselage, which is the main body of
"It sounds like the plane was landed fairly gently," said Gallo,
assuming the objects are identified as wreckage from flight MH370. "It
wasn’t nose-dived into the surface of the ocean, if it is in fact the
In the search for Air France Flight 447, the tail fin was near the
first thing found, he said, about five days after it crashed. Over the
next week or two, crews recovered more pieces and some human remains.
Gallo said the ocean is mysterious and it's hard to predict when survivors will be found.
"We won't know that until we know."
Other experts told CBC News the objects may end up being containers that fell from cargo ships.
John Blaxland, a senior fellow at the Strategic and
Defence Studies Centre at Australian National University, said he
suspects it's a container and that it will be hard to find no matter
what it is.
"The photo is four days old, and that means the
currents would have moved this object, possibly quite a long ways, and
not only that, it may have submerged further.”
The families of the passengers and crew on board the missing flight
appear to be holding out hope that this will either fail to be wreckage
or survivors will be found, CBC News reporter Andrew Lee said from
a hotel in Beijing where many of the families are staying.
Lee said he spoke to one man, who was aware of the satellite imagery,
who said he believes his son is still alive and won't believe otherwise
unless he sees a body. The father said families have had to cope with a
great deal of misinformation, making it difficult to believe this new
Lee said families in the hotel are on "razor-thin edge to begin with"
and emotions ran high after they were briefed on the possible findings.
People rushed out of the briefing room, many with their heads down and tears on their faces, he said.
Investigators believe that someone with detailed knowledge of both
the Boeing 777-200ER and commercial aviation navigation switched off the
plane's communications systems before diverting it thousands of
kilometres off its scheduled course from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
Exhaustive background checks of the passengers and crew aboard have not yielded anything that might explain why.
The FBI is helping Malaysian authorities analyze data from a flight simulator belonging to the captain
of the missing plane, after initial examination showed some data logs
had been deleted early last month. Hishammuddin said he had no new
information on efforts to recover those files.