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Mar 23, 2016

MH370 search drops its sharpest sonar, fate unknown

Some potentially very bad news in the search for MH370 has just been given low key wishy washy treatment by the ATSB in its


The Dong Hai Jiu 101, China's heavy duty if late contribution to the search
The Dong Hai Jiu 101, China’s heavy duty if late contribution to the search

Some potentially very bad news in the search for MH370 has just been given low key wishy washy treatment by the ATSB in its weekly update.

It says:

  • Dong Hai Jiu 101 is en route to Fremantle after an incident on the evening of 21 March in which the failure of a tow cable connector resulted in the loss of the SLH-ProSAS-60 towfish. Recovery options are currently being assessed.

This synthetic aperture device has previously been accorded immense importance in search operations by the ATSB, which at times struggles to communicate in a clear manner.

The device offers the southern Indian Ocean sea bed search for the sunk wreckage of the Malaysia Airlines 777-200ER it sharpest and deepest eyes.

The towfish can examine waters deeper than 6000 metres, that’s 1500 metres deeper than some of its other devices, and resolve objects with a resolution of two cms, enough to spot MH370s flight data and cockpit voice recorders, as well as seat frames, windows, and at the right depth and temperature, human remains that will for a variable period of time, remain recoverable.

The ATSB says the ocean where the Chinese ship was engaged in scanning operations is ‘roughly’ 3650 metres deep.

At the very least, the next of kin of the 239 people who were onboard MH370 when it vanished on 8 March 2014 on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing deserves more than an insultingly brief hand off buried in the middle of a weekly update.

There needs to be an accounting for the loss, the scenarios for recovery, and a commitment not to let any recovery process eat into the time available for a detailed and considered investigation of all of the sea floor where it is estimated that MH370 has the highest probability of having come to rest after it ran out of fuel and crashed.

The weekly update provides assurances that the two potential fragments of MH370 recovered from Mozambique that have been forwarded to the ATSB have been handled with procedures that will preserve all of the biological evidence that they contain.

Analysis of debris from Mozambique

Two pieces of debris found in Mozambique arrived in Canberra, Australia, on 20 March for examination. The examination team includes investigators from Australia and Malaysia, along with specialists from Boeing, Geoscience Australia, and the Australian National University. Procedures appropriate to maintain the integrity of this potential evidence have been followed.

The items have been treated at Geoscience Australia’s quarantine-approved facilities. The pieces were visually examined to remove all visible macrofauna and then rinsed, submerged and agitated in water to capture any loose fauna. All water was then passed through a series of sieves with any possible macrofauna retained. The sieved material will then be sorted and possible biological material identified. The items were released from quarantine once they were thoroughly cleaned and all visible signs of possible contamination removed.

Specialists from the Research School of Physics and Engineering at the Australian National University are assisting with the examination. The items have been x-rayed using an advanced scanning facility developed by the university.

Other technical specialists are conducting an examination which will include seeking to identify specific features that may be consistent with the items coming from an aircraft, and if possible, from MH370.

A statement on the findings will be made once the examination process is complete.

It also indicates that Australia is following the recovery of what appears to be an engine cowling from a South African beach.

  • A further piece of possible aircraft debris, suspected to be the cowling from an engine, has been found in South Africa. The Malaysian Government is working with South African officials to arrange for examination of the debris.

Photos of this latest potential fragment show a strikingly similar honeycomb structure to that seen in earlier Mozambique finds, as reported earlier today.


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2 thoughts on “MH370 search drops its sharpest sonar, fate unknown

  1. comet

    So now they’ll have to conduct a sophisticated search for the search equipment so that they can later search for the plane.

  2. Dan Dair

    So much for the original surveys.?

    As far as I recall the JACC described their efforts as ‘making this part of the seabed the most thoroughly mapped area of ocean-floor’ or words to that effect.

    Then they lose two towfish in that thoroughly mapped area.!!

    As Ben & Comet both suggest, this is search-time-wasted. Will they add-on these considerable delays at the end of the scheduled finishing date.?


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