A tragic jet age version of a message in a bottle?

Nothing more has been heard for some days of the mobile phone chip claimed to have been recovered from the Germanwings crash site, showing the chaotic last few seconds of the flight that ended in disaster in the southern French alps on 24 March.

However there could be more than 100 such chips in the impact zone in a steep and rocky gully if we assume mobile phones were as common among the 144 passengers as they are among the general public.

And some of them may well have retained images taken inside the jet, and perhaps even last text messages, possibly saved to memory by those who wanted to leave a goodbye message to their partners and children.

The short video claimed to have been played many times for Paris Match and a similar German publication Bild is said to record the sounds and vision of terrible chaos from a point near the rear of the A320’s cabin, as well as a lurch caused by a grazing impact with the mountain by a wing tip before the final instantly destructive impact.

A cynical explanation for the non publication of such a video may be the asking price, or that it was found to be a hoax and thus worth nothing.

However keep in mind that many more mobile phones and their chips would have been carried by the 239 people who vanished on board missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, the subject of a more than half completed ocean floor search of a priority area in the southern Indian Ocean, six days sailing time from Fremantle.

If, and this a huge ‘if’, the lost Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200ER is found, and much of the wreckage and perhaps some of the victims recovered, mobile phones will be among the personal items retrieved with the bodies or from seat backs.

An image or message retrieved from any of them could be essential to supporting or eliminating many of the theories proposed for explaining this perplexing mystery.

Whether they might show passengers suffering from hypoxia, likely surrounded by dangling oxygen masks, or some other terrible evidence of  events in the cabin, remains to be seen, and perhaps for an eternity.

At the moment key elements of the search fleet are being re-provisioned in Fremantle or already on the way back to a section of the search zone strongly favoured by the Independent Group of scientists who had been highly critical of the lack of information from the Malaysia led investigation,  but now appear to have been influential in refining the priority areas for the Australian led sea floor effort.

There are several stand out observations that have been made of the shipping movements in that area by US based ship tracker Mike Chillit (on Twitter @MikeChillit).

Mike Chillit has become notably skeptical of claims that MH370 actually flew south to that part of the Indian Ocean at all, but whether that proves the right or wrong call, he has pointed out an appearance of station keeping in a particular part of the priority area, and some rescanning of previously scanned strips of the sea bed.

This seemingly special attention that area may be getting seems linked to the use of the recently chartered automated underwater vehicle or AUV announced mid January.

There is a generally recognized risk that the combination of tiny pieces of tin and often complex and at times very silty areas of the deep ocean floor might conceal wreckage from all but very close up scans.

And the area at such risk is enormous, especially if some of the Inmarsat satellite data and the assumptions made using it contain significant errors or inaccuracies.

If or when MH370 is found, the use of capable recovery ships such as those used for laying and repairing ocean cables will not only seek out the black box flight recorders, but mobile phones that might, just, have captured some significant insights into the cause of the Malaysian jet’s abrupt diversion and disappearance while on its flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on 8 March 2014.

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