Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. 24/7 Space News .

Uncharted depths provide reality check for MH370 hunt
by Staff Writers
Kuala Lumpur (AFP) April 16, 2014

Mini-sub aborts again in MH370 deep ocean search
Perth, Australia (AFP) April 16, 2014 - A mini-submarine making its second dive in the hunt for Malaysian jet MH370 encountered a "technical difficulty" and resurfaced Wednesday, officials said, after the first mission also aborted.

"The Autonomous Underwater Vehicle, Bluefin-21, was forced to resurface this morning to rectify a technical issue," Australia's Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC) said.

"Bluefin-21 was then redeployed and it is currently continuing its underwater search."

Data was downloaded from the unmanned vehicle while on the deck of the Australian vessel Ocean Shield, which has led the search for the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 that vanished on March 8 with 239 people aboard.

"Initial analysis of the data downloaded this morning indicates no significant detections," JACC said.

The first mission which began Monday night aborted automatically after breaching the machine's maximum operating depth of 4,500 metres (15,000 feet). Analysis of its sonar data came up with a blank.

The Bluefin was undamaged and embarked on a second sonar sweep of the Indian Ocean seabed from Tuesday night.

The US navy has estimated it will take the torpedo-shaped vehicle from six weeks to two months to scan the entire search area.

JACC says it would normally spend 16 hours collecting data and four hours diviing down and re-surfacing. The first mission gathered six hours of data.

Hopes that Malaysia's missing jet might soon be found are yielding to the sobering realisation of the immense challenge of searching an uncharted seafloor at depths that push deep-sea technology to its limits.

"I have compared it to sending a man to the moon. We know how to do it, but we can't just do it in three weeks," said Erik van Sebille, an oceanographer at the University of New South Wales.

Twice in two days, an advanced US Navy mini-submarine has had to abort its search of the remote Indian Ocean for wreckage from the Boeing 777, which vanished on March 8.

The unmanned Bluefin-21 bounced back to the surface on Tuesday after hitting its maximum depth of 4,500 metres (15,000 feet), and Wednesday's search was cut short due to technical trouble.

The hitches have raised the spectre of a prolonged, difficult search that may require even more sophisticated equipment to be deployed.

For nearly a month, the search effort has focused on a vast and lonely stretch of ocean where the Malaysia Airlines jet is believed to have crashed after inexplicably veering far from its Kuala Lumpur-Beijing flight path.

Underwater signals detected in the last ten days -- thought to be from the plane's "black box" -- raised hopes that wreckage could soon be found.

But these beacons, with a normal lifespan of around 30 days, have since gone silent -- forcing investigators to look below the surface in a targeted area encompassing 40 square kilometres.

In a dark, extremely deep and little-known seascape far off Western Australia, it is a daunting prospect, experts say.

- Mysterious and unmapped -

"It has not been mapped -- in fact most of the deep ocean has not been mapped," Charitha Pattiaratchi, an oceanographer at the University of Western Australia, said of the search area.

"It is very cold and dark with high pressures -- 450 times that at the surface."

Experts cannot even agree on the nature of the seascape, variously described as flat, rocky or coated in super-fine silt that could envelop and hide wreckage.

The US Navy estimates the Bluefin-21 may need "anywhere from six weeks to two months to scan the entire search area". Nothing has been detected yet.

Authorities may need to take a step back and begin seafloor mapping by ships at the surface to get an idea of the environment below, said Ian Wright, director of science and technology at Britain's National Oceanography Centre.

"It would give you an idea, for instance, of which areas were hard substrate, volcanic ridges, faults, those sorts of things," Wright said.

Afterwards, submersibles could be sent down for a closer inspection of more defined areas.

There is a gathering sense that the Bluefin-21 might not be up to the enormous task of searching a large undersea expanse at depths more than 2,000 feet lower than where the Titanic came to rest.

Angus Houston, the Australian head of the search operation, acknowledged Monday that "much larger", and deeper-diving, equipment may be needed.

"They are being looked at as we speak," he said, adding that partners in the international search will need to discuss "who has the capabilities to do this work" at such depths.

- 'Pretty extreme' -

Experts said that moving more advanced machinery into place will take time, and the mission will remain arduous -- particularly the eventual recovery of anything from the seafloor.

"There are two ways you can work at those depths. The first is manned submersibles. Very few countries have that capability," said Wright.

A "likelier option" is the use of remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) that can go as deep as six kilometres, he said.

An ROV was used to pluck the flight data recorders of Air France 447 from the bottom of the Atlantic in 2011 at depths of around 3,000 metres.

"There's only a small number of ROVs available which will operate at (the MH370 search area's) depth. It's pretty extreme," Wright said.

Air France showed it can be done but it took nearly two painstaking years even though searchers had a better idea of where it crashed.

David Mearns, a US marine scientist who led the search that in 2008 located the Australian naval vessel HMAS Sydney -- sunk in battle during World War II -- said MH370 would eventually be found.

But families, authorities, the media and a fascinated world need to be patient, he said.

"I believe the hardest part is done. They have found it," he said in reference to the beacon signals heard earlier.

"The next part is not going to be easy. It's complex and challenging. But it's now a manageable task."



Related Links
Water News - Science, Technology and Politics

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

Mini-sub deploys to scour ocean depths in MH370 hunt
Perth, Australia (AFP) April 14, 2014
Australia decided Monday to deploy a mini-submarine to scour the unmapped Indian Ocean seabed for Malaysian jet MH370 at a daunting depth of 4,500 metres (15,000 feet), ending the search for black-box signals. Angus Houston, who heads the Joint Agency Coordination Centre, also revealed that an oil slick had been sighted in the area of the search led by the Australian vessel Ocean Shield far ... read more

Russian Federal Space Agency is elaborating Moon exploration program

Science, Discovery Channels to broadcast private race to the moon

Take the Plunge: LADEE Impact Challenge

Land a Lunar Laser Reflector Now!

Gusev Crater once held a lake after all

Mars Exploration in a Deep Mine

Images From NASA Mars Rover Include Bright Spots

NASA's rover Curiosity discovers Australia on Mars, sort of

Minorities on display in Chinese tourist boom

Veggie Will Expand Fresh Food Production on ISS

Reporters See NASA's Latest High Tech Exploration Tool Before Testing

Recycling astronaut urine for energy and drinking water

China launches experimental satellite

Tiangong's New Mission

"Space Odyssey": China's aspiration in future space exploration

China to launch first "space shuttle bus" this year

'Cherry tree from space' mystery baffles Japan

Extra-terrestrial Tweet-up links Tokyo with space

Russian cargo ship docks to space station

Progress Departs, New Cargo Ships Awaiting Launch

NASA Ames Launches Nanosatellites, Science Experiments on SpaceX Rocket

On-board camera provides a unique perspective on Arianespace Flight VS07

The DZZ-HR satellite is fueled for Arianespace's upcoming Vega launch

EUTELSAT 3B Mission Status Update

Chance meeting creates celestial diamond ring

Faraway Moon or Faint Star? Possible Exomoon Found

The Importance of Planetary Plumes

Orbital physics is child's play with 'Super Planet Crash'

Vanguard Space Technologies Antenna Reflectors on Amazonas Satellite Launch

Middle Eastern country orders more border radar

Headwall Extends Global Reach in Asia/Pac and Israel

A new twist for better steel

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.