[media-credit name=”Ernest Ng” align=”alignnone” width=”540″][/media-credit]
Months after the end of the aerial search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which went missing with 239 people aboard over the South China Sea between Malaysia and Vietnam on March 8, underwater search efforts began a second phase on Monday.
Initial maps of the sea floor were not clear enough to assist in the search. Since suspension of the initial search, the Australian government has been constructing a clearer sea-floor map, essential for the search and to ensure no underwater collision with remains of the aircraft. Back in May, a signal consistent with that of a radio beacon was detected in the area, but nothing turned up that helped with the search.
In this phase, the Australian government has started using a special vessel, the GO Phoenix, for undersea debris search.
The GO Phoenix has special technology using sonar to search underwater for possible debris of the flight. The special equipment is able to search far enough above the ocean floor that it shouldn’t hit any debris, according to Martin Dolan of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), which is coordinating the search. Each segment of the search could last for several weeks before resupply in Western Australia.
Additional ships, from Dutch company Fugro Survey, are to join the search in upcoming weeks.
This isn’t the only incident with a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777. Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, another 777, was shot down near the Ukraine–Russia border on July 17.
The question then becomes what to do if they find something. According to Mr. Dolan it depends upon what, where and how. The Australian government have allocated $60 million AUD to the underwater search, an amount expected to be matched by the Malaysian government as well. That seems like a sizable amount of cash, but Mr. Dolan notes cautiously that the drone-assisted mapping of the underwater area itself may take up to a month.
“Until we’ve got that largely completed we won’t understand the sequence of what we’re able to do in relation to wreckage and human remains,” he says.
The mystery continues, but officials remain optimistic about the mission. Only time will tell.