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Jan 29, 2016

China sends hi-tech ship to MH370 search zone

China is sending a ship with ultra deep-sea sonar scanning equipment to the MH370 search zone in the south Indian Ocean. The announcement makes sense of references to

Ben Sandilands — Editor of Plane Talking

Ben Sandilands

Editor of Plane Talking

The ship which should bring the sharpest and deepest eyes to the search
The ship which should bring the sharpest and deepest eyes to the search

China is sending a ship with ultra deep-sea sonar scanning equipment to the MH370 search zone in the south Indian Ocean.

The announcement makes sense of references to the use of sharper, deeper synthetic aperture sonar scanning technology by an intelligence circle outside Australia back in August 2015.

The ship is the Dong Hai Jiu 101, launched in 2012, and is described by a China watcher as a class of vessel designed to work in concert with the PRC’s largest, fastest and most powerful ocean rescue tug the Nan Hai Jiu 101 and similar.

An account of these vessels can read here, although it isn’t particularly well written, or translated.

The Dong Hai Jiu 101 was offered to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull by China’s Premier Li Keqiang in November 2015, and since then been refitted and equipped with the ProSAS-60 – a 6,000 metre depth-rated synthetic aperture sonar towed system intended for very deep sea search operations after maritime mishaps.

In a statement deputy PM and Infrastructure Minister Warren Truss said, “The ProSAS-60 will be operated by Phoenix International Holdings and Hydrospheric Solutions; both companies have experience in the search for MH 370 having previously operated on the search vessel GO Phoenix.

“The ship is currently in Singapore for mobilisation and is expected to depart for Australia on Sunday (31 January). It will commence operations in the search area towards the end of February.

“The presence of Dong Hai Jiu 101 will supplement the work of Fugro Discovery, Fugro Equator and Havila Harmony, and returns to four the number of vessels actively searching for MH 370 in the 120,000 square kilometre search area.”

The value of China’s contribution to the search by way of the ship is given as $20 million. China was also a major supporter of the early surface air search west and south west of Western Australia, and briefly sent or diverted other China flagged shipping into areas where surface debris was considered a possibility.

Parts of the sea bed along the so-called 7th arc west and SW of Western Australia lies is as deep as 6000 metres. It remains unclear, because of variations in the official narrative, as to whether any of the other underwater equipment used in the Australia managed  search was totally effective at such depths.

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26 thoughts on “China sends hi-tech ship to MH370 search zone

  1. Dan Dair

    If you want to be sure that something’s done properly…….
    do it yourself.!!!

  2. Ventus45

    The Chinese abruptly abandoned all search activities for MH-370 when the JACC/ATSB took over from AMSA.
    Since then, the Chinese attitude to the JACC/ATSB search could best be described as one of “studied indifference”.
    So, one must ask, what motive could the Chinese now have for their apparent renewed interest in MH-370 ?
    Will the Chinese join the ATSB search, perhaps using their “better SAS kit” for looking into those “difficult sites” that the ATSB has “mentioned in passing” at different times, or will the Chinese conduct their own “entirely independent” search ?
    If the later, it will be interesting to see “where” they search.
    That could be “telling”, specifically as to who knows “what’s what”, in the intel world.

  3. Chris Cathel

    “what motive could the Chinese now have for their apparent renewed interest in MH-370 ?”

    This search has been so long for a plane that probably could not be recovered, even if it were in the ocean of which there is much doubt.

    Thus I conclude either:
    – the search is for something secret
    – the search is a cover for some secret activity.

    And now the Chinese have found out they want a chance/share too.

  4. Ventus45

    Interesting comments Chris.
    Are you suggesting that MH-370 landed somewhere, and that a decoy drone (like a global hawk say) was sent to the SIO with it’s electonics set up to emulate 9M-MRO, and that the Chinese will be looking for it ?

  5. Simon Gunson

    China had the door slammed in it’s face by the Australian led search effort on 28 March 2014 when on the insistence of the JIT committee in Malaysia, they rejected China’s estimation where MH370 impacted.

    That is why China has been loathe to make any financial contributions. Would you help someone who insults and ignores you?

    People tend to forget now that on 16 March 2014 an American satellite spotted a floating object in the Indian Ocean 24m long. This object was 425 nautical miles south of the seabed search area.

    Two days later on 18 March 2014, the Chinese satellite Gaofen-1 spotted another object 22.5m long. Both these objects were the size of wings from a Boeing 777 drifting 63km apart.

    Then three French satellites including Pleiades-A and Pleiades-B plus the radar mapping satellite, SAR-X spotted 122 large shiny floating objects floating between the first two objects.

    Chinese oceanographic scientists studied wind and wave patterns backwards to 8 March 2014 to reverse calculate the point of impact for MH370.

    Chinese scientists concluded from debris drift alone that impact was at 45.30S, 85.30E or along an axis running north north east (NNE) to 43.40S,88.30E.

    Since the Australian seabed search has effectively failed to find MH370 further north, please will the Chinese Government search the seabed around 45.30S, 85.30E?

  6. Chris Cathel

    With all these satellites there must be video evidence of the plane while flying – no matter which direction it flew.

    And what about all the military radar – not requiring an on-plane transponder?

    Who can believe that all the monitoring saw nothing?

  7. Dan Dair

    Chris Cathel,
    Your qustions have come up a number of times here since MH370 disappeared.

    In essence there are two points to it;
    1. All the supposed flying-around the region of Malaysia & the surrounding nations is probably rubbish.
    The reported radar-tracking images have never been released, which leads you believe they don’t exist.
    Additionally, there are military tensions between some of the nations in this region & it is more or less unbelievable that if a random large aircraft was flying where the Malaysians say it was flying, that these other nations wouldn’t have spotted it on their ‘on-alert’ radar systems.?

    2. There is a hell of a lot of nothing to look at in the Southern Indian Ocean, so unless some nation was by chance actually looking at the appropriate bit of ocean, they’re very, very unlikely to have tracked it.

    You’ll have probably seen those action movies, such as the Jack Ryan series, where the CIA says, “we can get a satellite in position in two hours”.
    The crux of the problem was that for two days, Malaysia was insisting that the search was continued in the South China Sea, thousands & thousands of kilometres away from where the satellite debris field was finally seen.
    (make of that what you will.!!!!)

  8. Simon Gunson

    Except Dan Dair, that two floating objects the length of Boeing 777 wings and bigger than a shipping container floating in close proximity to each other roughly where an airliner disappeared are not to be dismissed as mere rubbish without any attempt to locate or recover them.

  9. Fred

    Nonsense Simon. The area where those objects were spotted was covered during the aerial search. Ships were also sent to the area, but the objects could not be located. A number of smaller objects were spotted from the air, but they could not be located when the ships reached the area. Some objects were recovered, but they were described as fishing equipment and other flotsam not related to MH370.

  10. Dan Dair

    I think you’ve misinterpreted the timeline of what I’m talking about.?
    The bit I’m describing as ‘probably rubbish’ is what supposedly happened before MH370 turned South.

    The fact is that objects which were potentially big enough to have been full or part wing-sections were spotted by satellite imagery.
    These were then never located by either air or sea search, but that doesn’t mean that the initial images were false.
    The weather & sea conditions were horrible & everything relating to the search & drift patterns was set against the searchers.

    I think it’s an Einstein quote that says;
    “It is madness to keep repeating the same experiment in the anticipation of a different result”.
    His point being, that if you have a working hypothesis but the experimental data doesn’t fit the hypothesis, then the hypothesis & not the data must be wrong.?

  11. Fred

    I didn’t say the images were false, but nothing was found when the area was searched. What else were they supposed to do at that point, given there was no confirmation that the objects were wreckage from MH370?

    The thinking on which the current search is based may or may not be correct. As I understand it, only about three-quarters of the current search area has been covered. Shouldn’t we let them finish it before pointing fingers?

  12. Simon Gunson

    No Fred, you are completely wrong and i have followed the facts with precision.

    The search area for objects spotted by satellites from 16-24 March 2014 was in the vicinity of 44.25S, 90.17E and from Perth it was 1,411nm/2,613km away on a heading of 230.7 degrees true.

    the search there began with one sole flight by a Chinese PLAAF IL-76 aircraft on 24 March 2014.

    This flight was met with howls of protest from Malaysia where the JIT committee demanded the entire aerial search be abandoned. Next day the AMSA grounded all search aircraft on 25 March 2014.

    The Chinese IL-76 flew into that area where a 24m and 22.5m long object were spotted by satellite 6 & 8 days earlier in atrocious overcast weather and could not see anything.

    That Chinese aircraft then turned east into clearer conditions and about 300km to the east spotted two small white objects which they photographed. HMAS Success was diverted to try and locate these objects, but failed.

    Meanwhile satellite images taken 24 & 25 March revealed that the main debris field had drifted south and not east.

    HMAS Success was then ordered on, or about 24 March to head SW to find the main debris field. Meantime on 27 March without the aerial search ever resuming in that area the Malaysian JIT team demanded that AMSA/JACC divert the entire search effort further north.

    Next day on 28 March 2014 the search area where satellites spotted floating debris was officially abandoned.

    The search was shifted to an area directly west of Perth 999nm/1,850km away (over Broken Ridge) 30.42S,96.24E. A few days later on 5 April 2014 the search was shifted North again to Zenith Ridge approx 598nm west of Exmouth.

    The debris which you refer as fishing equipment and other flotsam where items recovered were west of Zenith Ridge where the vessel Ocean Shield declared it heard an underwater pinger on 6th April 2014.

    You have gotten all the facts jumbled up & wrong in your memory. None of the floating objects seen 16-24 March by satellite were ever located or examined. HMAS Success got very close but then was ordered to turn North and abandon trying to find them.

    I suggest before venturing any further opinion on the matter that you take some time to research and get your facts straight.

  13. Simon Gunson


    Thank you for clarifying what flotsam you were referring to. The sea in the Gulf of Thailand was full of all sorts of rubbish including oil slicks found to be heavy marine grade diesel fuel flushed from ship bilges.

    That Einstein quote is the definition of insanity of you want to look it up. that is precisely what Martyn Dolan is proposing when he suggests to go back over the same area yet again.

  14. Fred

    So was the area searched or not Simon? In post #8 above, you said the sightings were dismissed without any attempt to locate or recover them. I pointed out to you that aircraft and ships were sent to the area but could not locate the objects. You told me I was wrong but then launched into a monologue describing the search I mentioned. Make up your mind.

    I didn’t mention any ‘facts’ in my previous post Simon. I simply pointed out that search activities did take place in the area you described, contrary to your previous post. Those search activities are described on the AMSA website and have nothing to do with my memory.

  15. PAIN_P2

    @Fred & @Simon I think this is the part of the AMSA timeline to which you are referring:
    •The search continues.
    •AMSA’s RCC receives commercial satellite imagery of objects possibly related to the search for the missing aircraft. The Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organisation assessment of them is ‘credible’; however, they may not be related to the aircraft.
    •As a result of this information, four aircraft are reoriented to the 23,000 square kilometre area, 2,500 kilometres south west of Perth.
    •A RAAF C-130 Hercules is tasked to drop datum marker buoys to assist in drift modelling.
    •By the end of the day, two RAAF P3 Orions, a US Navy P8 Poseidon, a RNZAF P3 Orion and a RAAF C-130 Hercules aircraft have assisted in the search.
    •A total of six merchant ships have assisted in the search since a shipping broadcast was issued on Monday night (17 March).
    •The HMAS Success is en route to the area.

    Also refer to AMSA ( presser with General Manager of AMSA’s Emergency Response Division John Young and Air Commodore John McGarry.

    And these were the SAT PHOTs:

    Then go to the 22 March where it stated:

    •In the evening, China provides a satellite image to Australia, possibly showing a 22.5 metre floating object in the Southern Indian Ocean. AMSA plots the position but the object is not sighted on Saturday. The information is taken into account for Sunday’s search plans.

    Then on the 24 March this:

    •The Malaysian PM declares based on INMARSAT advice that the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 ended in the Indian Ocean.

    Significantly the next day PM Abbott declares the SAR mission (ICAO Annex 12) has officially shifted to ‘search & recovery’ (Annex 13), therefore effectively ending AMSA’s JRCC official control of the mission and giving control back to the Malaysians.

    Coincidentally two days later Martin Dolan joins John Taylor in a joint presser & the daily brief states:

    •The Australian Transport Safety Bureau receives new information as it seeks to refine the search area.

    Then the next the daily brief states:

    •On Friday 28 March, the search area shifts 1,100 kilometres to the north east, based on updated advice provided by the international investigation team in Malaysia.
    •The new search area is approximately 319,000 square kilometres and 1,850 kilometres west of Perth.
    •The credible new lead is based on continuing analysis of radar data between the South China Sea and the Strait of Malacca before radar contact was lost…

    ..•Six vessels set off for the new search area, including HMAS Success and five Chinese ships.

    Three days later the excellent, informative AMSA timeline concludes – shame!

    Thereafter we are left in an information vacuum, which seems to be standard fare anytime ATSB Chief Commissioner Martin Dolan is involved in any high profile investigations or, in this case, ‘search & recovery ‘non-investigation’. You see it is all about control i.e. controlling the narrative.

  16. PAIN_P2

    I have always wondered why, given the huge amount of resources & expense in monies outlaid, why it was that the whole 7th Arc ‘priority areas’ wasn’t saturated with SLDMBs. According to records there was only 33 SLDMBs dropped in anger. Anyway for Simon’s benefit it would have been extremely interesting to have kept track of the SLDMBs dropped by the RAAF C130 on the 20 March…

    “..RAAF C-130 Hercules is tasked to drop datum marker buoys to assist in drift modelling..”


  17. Simon Gunson


    Given your limited attention span I reduced my reply to pictures so even you can understand. This was the succession of constantly changing air search areas from 18-24 March 2014:

    You will notice that I added the known drift pattern of the 24m Object first seen by satellite 16 March, last seen 25 March represented by a pink dot.

    This 24m object was the Western most and the most Northerly of the floating debris sighted by multiple satellites. AMSA constantly failed to appreciate the main debris field was drifting south, far to the west of their air search boxes. This image from the Chinese IL-76 aircraft graphically reveals how poor visibility was so perhaps even you can understand?

    This image explains the drift of that 24m Object. 63km away to the SW China’s gaofen-1 satellite spotted another object 22.5m long and between these two larger objects three French satellites including the radar mapping SAR-X satellite imaged 122 floating objects.

  18. Simon Gunson

    The Marine surface search initially involved the bulker Greenery Sea and car transporter Hoegh St Petersberg.

    Greenery Sea took the more southerly course but passed through the debris field seen by satellite during the night of 17 March therefore saw nothing and continued on towards Australia.

    Hoegh St Petersberg crossed to the north of the debris field also in darkness on 18 March 2014. Once the car transporter was east of the debris it turned south performed a large triangular search pattern heading east then North again.

    Meanwhile satellite sightings indicate the debris were drifting south not East.

  19. Simon Gunson


    SLDMB drift buoys were tracked by CSIRO and the results have been published.

    Note from the image that none of the Drift Buoys in red from the seabed search area reached Reunion.

    It is bizarre therefore that Drift Buoys in white, some from south of the seabed search area, in fact many from where satellites spotted floating objects 16-25 March 2014, drifted NE towards Freemantle, then north towards the Timor Sea before turning west and heading to Reunion island.

    The upshot of this in answer to your point, is debris ignored by the AMSA could have reached Reunion whilst no debris could have reached Reunion from the seabed search area.

    Incontestable evidence that the seabed search is in the wrong area.

  20. Fred

    Simon Gunson:

    You’d stand a better chance of getting your message across if you weren’t such an obnoxious prick. Some of the technical information you have advanced in support of your theory is total nonsense. If that’s any indication of the quality of your other analysis, then I’m afraid your credibility is utterly shot. You and Byron Bailey both cherry pick the information that suits your arguments and conveniently ignore everything else. Perhaps you two should get a room together?

  21. Simon Gunson


    As opposed to what?
    Your anonymous sniping with no original contribution whatsoever?

    So if we all fold our arms and leave it up to you MH370 will be found in four weeks?
    Oh sorry that was Hardy’s line wasn’t it?

  22. PAIN_P2

    SY “..SLDMB drift buoys were tracked by CSIRO and the results have been published..”

    Yes but there was only 33: Ref pg 16-21 here –

    My point is that the whole of the 7th arc should have been saturated with them, both drogue & submerged versions.

    Also all of the best guess-timates for location on the arc or elsewhere should have automatically had SLDMBs deployed, small price to pay out of a pretty big bucket.

  23. Dan Dair

    I agree completely.
    It would have been really nice if anyone had mentioned it at the time…..
    at least, anyone of influence.!

  24. Fred

    Simon Gunson:

    How do you account for the following statement from the CSRIO, dated 8 September 2015?:

    “Analysis of the trajectories of satellite-tracked drifting buoys deployed in the Indian Ocean over the last 30 years confirms our earlier conclusion based on computer modelling that the MH370 flaperon found on La Reunion in July 2015 is consistent with MH370 having crashed near the 39°S-32°S segment of the 7th arc on 8 March 2014. With just one piece of MH370 found, however, the buoy data, like the computer modelling, can not significantly refine the ATSB’s sea-floor search area – it just increases our confidence that the flight path analysis underpinning the choice of sea-floor search area is not wrong.”

    Also, the following statement, dated 2 October 2015:

    “The end points of forward-tracks originating near the northern half of the high-priority seafloor search zone are distributed fairly evenly around La Reunion. A similar result is obtained for the southern half, reinforcing our earlier conclusion that if the plane had crashed where it is thought to have, that Reunion would be one of the most likely places where debris would be found.”

    I note that the image you posted in #19 was taken from a paper by Brock McEwen. It was NOT published by the CSIRO.

  25. Brock McEwen

    Fred: your skepticism and desire for precision do you credit. But for clarity: while improperly described as a depiction of SLDMB floating buoy results, I can at least confirm to you that the image Simon links to is an accurate depiction of CSIRO’s forward and reverse drift model sample outputs, calibrated to leeway = 1.5%, published by CSIRO as .kmz files. All I did was pop them into Google Earth. Here’s the link (.kmz files at bottom of page):

    I work hard to ensure everything I publish is verifiable.

    (Simon is not entirely wrong to associate these model results with SLDMB drifters, as CSIRO has said it calibrated its 1.5% leeway assumption to the travels of the untethered of those drifters.)

  26. Ventus45

    Well, perhaps we now have an official answer for one of my questions in my post above (#2 = Ventus45 30th January 2016)
    “Will the Chinese (1) join the ATSB search, perhaps using their “better SAS kit” for looking into those “difficult sites” that the ATSB has “mentioned in passing” at different times, or (2) will the Chinese conduct their own “entirely independent” search ?”
    The latest ATSB Search Status Report of 17th February 2016 ( and clearly states:
    Dong Hai Jiu 101 has departed Fremantle to transit to the calibration range where the towfish will be trialed. It will then return to Fremantle to land personnel embarked only for the trials, before departing around 18 February for the first of three swings in the search area.

    So, THREE – and ONLY three swings = trips = deployments.

    I think we can assume from this, that the answer to part (1) above, is that the ship has been tasked with a defined list of “difficult sites” to check out, which will take three trips total, and when completed, project finishes, ie, will be wound up, at least as far as Australia’s ATSB, and MALAYSIA is concerned.

    Presumably, at that point, the “agreements” in the ATSB document () lapse. Then, presumably, all three countries are “released” from any need or reason to “co-operate”, hence, China, if it so chose, could continue, with it’s own independent search, if it wanted to, and would be under no obligation whatsoever to tell anybody anything, even if they later found it.

    Given China’s attitude to the search for the last eighteen months, it is pretty clear that they have been absent because they believe they were being ignored and lied to. With that as the background, it would be highly unlikely that the Chinese would “give” Malaysia or Australia the proverbial “time of day” if they did later find it outside the 120,000 square kilometre zone themselves.

    Indeed, they may choose to keep any find a state secret, so that they could later marshal their own recovery assets in secret, and do a recovery under cover of a “fishing fleet” or similar, and “exclude” all other parties, regardless of what the UN, ICAO, or anyone else said about it. That would be very interesting, politically.

    So, now the question becomes, what will the Dong Hai Jiu 101 do after July 2016 ? Will it return to China ? OR Will we get an answer to part (2) of my original post above ?

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