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Sep 042014
 

3672fbe - New Ocean Floor Map Charts MH370 Search Area

Australian officials released a glimpse of the Indian Ocean floor, where the missing Boeing 777-200ER airliner of MH370 may reside. “We will find it,” says Australian Transport Safety Bureau experts, upon observing the details revealed from the extraordinary ocean floor mapping.

Photo Credit: Geoscience Australia. About two-thirds of the 60,000 square kilometer (650 kilometer long and 93 kilometer wide, or 23,000-square mile) high-priority search area 1800 kilometers off the coast of western Australia in the southern Indian Ocean has been surveyed to “support a safe and effective deep-water search. The above three-dimensional map has been built from a combination of existing data and new higher resolution surveys.”

Large foreign objects surprised Australian investigators today, as not expected to be found in the oceanic region searchers believe MH370’s Boeing 777-200ER airliner may have crashed on March 8. These interesting pieces of debris have been identified with satellite-tracking data and flight-simulation analysis, The Times Australian & New Zealand reports.

Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) Chief Commissioner, Martin Dolan told The Times that investigators are not quite sure if the large foreign objects are plane wreckage, and he cautioned that what has been discovered today could just turn out to be underwater rock formations.

“There is nothing that has screamed out and said ‘It look like an aircraft’,” he said.

“It’s still a hell of an area. The area is horribly, horribly complicated.”

“The complexities surrounding the search cannot be understated. It involves vast areas of the Indian Ocean with only limited known data and aircraft flight information,” Dolan said.

“While it is impossible to determine with certainty where the aircraft may have entered the water, all the available data indicates a highly probable search area close to a long but narrow arc of the southern Indian Ocean.”

Dolan further added: “The search will be a major undertaking. The complexities and challenges involved are immense, but not impossible.”

“The best minds from around the world have been reviewing, refining and localizing the most likely area, where the aircraft entered the water, which is why we remain confident of finding the aircraft.”

The remarkable deep sea map of the southern Indian Ocean region, where MH370’s Boeing 777-200ER possibly resides, details the mountainous terrain at ocean floor depths, ranging from 1000 meters at numerous underwater mountain plateaus, to as high as 6000 meters at the Wharton Basin, (shown at the far left of the map), the Perth Abyssal Plain (shown in the center), and Naturalisto Plateau (shown in the upper far right), all located in the bottom of the southern Indian Ocean off the western coast of the Australian Continental Shelf (shown at the middle top of the map).

The map is also a stunning new finding for oceanic geodetic science and technology in that discoveries of two deep sea volcanoes never seen before have been revealed to humankind. Marvelously, from atop each of their underwater mountainous plateau edges, the Broken Ridge (shown in the bottom right of the map) and the Diamantina Trench (shown on the right), feature a stunningly 6000-meter sudden drop in oceanic depth.

According to Discovery News, all kinds of things are being found on the floor of the Indian Ocean.

“We’ve already found seamounts and volcanoes that were unknown and uncharted,” explained Dr. Stuart Minchin. “There will be many scientists around the world interested in this information because it is of a very unknown part of the ocean, and it is going to be a unique data set for this part of the world.”

According to Forbes Magazine, the area between Australia and Antarctica was formed when the countries separated 100 million years ago. There are all kinds of things going on there that weren’t previously known. Aside from volcanoes, there are some serious dips in the ocean floor, and some scientists will choose to study this area more closely in the coming months.

“Among the geological features discovered in the search were volcanoes up to 2,000 metres high, said Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss, who described them as ‘quite remarkable.’ At one point, the ocean floor drops from a depth of 600 metres to 6,600 metres in ‘a very short distance,’ Truss said.”

Prepared for the ATSB, marked in red on the map is the new Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 priority search area, extending from Broken Ridge (shown on the right) to beyond Gludren Draak Seamount (shown on the left).

This ASTB priority search area features oceanic depths in the range of 1-3 thousand meters that needs to be covered, as search teams in late September miraculously attempt to find “needles in a haystack” in recovering debris from the Boeing 777-200ER wreckage, including the airliner’s crucial two black-box flight data recorders.

Two survey ships, the Chinese, Zhu Kezhen, and the Australian-contracted, Fugro Equator, have been dispatched since early August to carry on the mapping tasks. This process has been crucial, as it has now mapped out possible hazards that could affect the next phase of deep-water search.

Australian government has committed to spending $80-$90 million on the MH370 search operation. Australian authorities has selected a prime contractor in the Dutch vessel firm, Fugro Survey, earmarked for one-year to oversee this $52 million next phase of the MH370 Boeing 777-200ER search, commencing late September, with three vessels, Fugro Equator, Fugro Discovery, and Malaysian-contracted ship, GO Phoenix.

23cfd56 - New Ocean Floor Map Charts MH370 Search Area

A couple of huge Fugro underwater vehicles have carefully scan 60,000 square kilometers (23,000-square mile) of the sea floor in the southern Indian Ocean, off the west coast of the Australian Continental Shelf (shown at the top of the map). The sonar data has been now sent to two Fugro vessels and interpreted by personnel on board, and then reviewed by analysts on shore off the Australian coast at Perth. This has led to the production of the above three-dimensional map of the deep sea floor of the southern Indian Ocean in the region.

As the next search phase commences in late September, scanning sonor devices called ‘towfish’ will trace the priority area (marked in red on the map) at about 100 meters above the seabed. Towfish will be attached to an armour-plated 10 kilometer-length cable. The above deep ocean floor map will be employed by search teams to avoid areas wherein newly-discovered underwater volcanoes and various deep mountainous terrains, plateaus, and geological underwater geodetic complexities reside.

“The acoustic images from the sonar “pings” will then be fed through the fibre optic cable for evaluation at the company’s Perth offices. The towfish made by US company, EdgeTech, has already been used to find a World War ll bomber, albeit in shallower water. There is also equipment to “sniff” any evidence of aviation fuel in the water down to a few parts per billion. A video camera and lights can also be used close up, if debris is identified by the scanner,” technically and accurately explains The Sydney Morning Herald.

Steve Duffield, managing director of Fugro, said to The Sydney Morning Herald, “the nature of the work is similar to what we do every day.”

“What’s interesting about this is the size, the depth and the location that is just a long, long way away from anywhere.

“The safety bureau has designated the search area and if it is within our search area we will find it. The law of averages say we could find it as easily on day one as on day 365.”

Daniel O’Malley, ATSB spokesperson, however, cautioned that the MH370 search these past six months next week has been constrained to limited communications data of just eight “handshake” transmission signals from a lone satellite of the British firm, Inmarsat, and to very little aircraft flight information retrieve from the Boeing 777-200ER airliner, moments before it disappeared from radar screens in the early morning hours of March 8, 2014, as MH370 was flying en route to Beijing, China, less than an hour after the flight departed from Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

“The seventh handshake came after seven hours and 38 minutes of flight (with nothing heard from the crew for the previous seven hours). The investigators now seem to be convinced that this signal was in response to an interruption in the aircraft’s power supply,” The Economist analyzes further today.

“This analysis will enable us to prioritize our search within a vast area of the Indian Ocean so we can find the missing aircraft,” O’Malley said to The Sydney Morning Herald. “We need to remember, though, that it took two years to find Air France flight AF447, whose last position was known with much more precision. We’re dealing with a much more challenging set of circumstances.

O’Malley further added: “The arc associated with the seventh communications handshake is the most reliable information we have. We are confident that the aircraft will be found along that arc. Our task is to determine the priorities for searching on that arc. Priority zones for the underwater search are being finalized and ranked. We can then deploy excellent search technology and skilled crews available to us to search those zones thoroughly. All this work will ensure the best prospects of finding the aircraft and solving the mystery of MH370.”

2bf0789 - New Ocean Floor Map Charts MH370 Search Area

Malaysia Airlines ground staff attempted to contact the flight crew of MH370 by satellite phone once it vanished on March 8 from radar, Australian officials announced on August 28, 2014. This short phone call is now being used to refine the probable final flight path of the missing Boeing 777-200ER airliner.

Australia’s deputy prime minister, Warren Truss, said analysis of the failed call to the plane, which disappeared on 8 March, “suggests to us that the aircraft might have turned south a little earlier than we had previously expected,” according to The Associated Press and Agence France-Presse.

“The search area remains the same, but some of the information that we now have suggests to us that areas a little further to the south – within the search area, but a little further to the south – are of particular interest and priority in the search area,” he said.

3784ce3 - New Ocean Floor Map Charts MH370 Search Area

Photo Credit: Kym Smith Source: News Corp Australia. Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss (center) met in Canberra recently to commit Australia in a signed memorandum of understanding with Malaysia’s Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai (on the left) and Chinese Vice-Minister of Transport He Jianzhong (on the right) in Canberra.

Six Australian nationals were among 239 people on board the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 that disappeared en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Suddenly, the Boeing 777-200 airliner lost contact with air traffic control on that early morning March 8, 2014, as it was transitioning between Malaysian and Vietnamese airspace.

Earlier drawing search evidence from eight satellite signals from the British satellite firm, Inmarsat, its automated systems have pointed international teams searching for the Boeing 777-200ER whereabouts inside the southern Indian Ocean off Western Australia. However, today’s satellite phone call is “a new and separate detail.”

“After MH370 disappeared from the radar, Malaysia Airlines ground staff sought to make contact using a satellite phone. That was unsuccessful,” Truss said.

“But the detailed research that’s being done now has been able to … trace that phone call and help position the aircraft and the direction it was travelling.”

Malaysia, as the country where the Boeing 777-200ER airliner was flagged, has overall responsibility for the crash investigation. But Australia has search and rescue responsibility for the area of the Indian Ocean, where the plane is thought to have crashed 1,800 kilometers (1,100 miles) off Western Australia, according to The Associated Press and Agence France-Presse.

“But investigators are a long way from being sure. […] If they find any wreckage from MH370, then an attempt will have to be made to locate and recover the aircraft’s flight recorders. Only then might it be possible to determine how a modern airliner could vanish so mysteriously. It is not just grieving relatives who want answers, but airlines too,” concludes The Economist moments ago.

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