The aftermath of Tropical Cyclone Marcus is expected to affect search operations for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 as search vessel Seabed Constructor resumes the task.
The latest update by the MH370 Response Team says the vessel was expected to remain on weather standby after its scheduled arrival back in the search area Tuesday.
Weather is expected to become a bigger factor in the search as winter approaches in what is regarded as a notoriously rough part of the ocean.
The vessel returned to Western Australia to resupply after completing its sweep of the northern leg of Site 1, the 25,000 sq. km area favored by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau and other experts as the most likely site of the 2014 crash, and much of the southern leg.
The update upgraded the total area covered by the search as March 25 to 33,000 sq. km, saying the area added since its previous report was due to “additional verified processed data being made available during the vessel’s transit to Fremantle port’’.
No significant contacts have been identified but about 3000 sq. km of Site 1 remained to be searched when Seabed Constructor returned to Fremantle as well as two potential extensions, designated Site 2 and Site 3, to the north.
The company behind the search, Ocean Infinity, stands to earn up to $US70 million if it finds the missing Boeing 777 but has 90 days in which to do it. These days do not include the transit time to and from Fremantle.
Several experts have suggested the missing plane may be in Sites 2 or 3 and possibly further north.
The University of Western Australia’s Professor Charitha Pattiaratchi said last year that its drift modeling suggested MH370 could be within a 40km radius of Longitude 96.5° E Latitude 32.5° S.
“Results of our oceanographic drift modeling indicate that the priority region to target would be the area between 33°S and 28°S along the 7th arc,” Professor Pattiaratchi told AirlineRatings recently.
“Longitude 96.5° E Latitude 32.5° S – was the origin of the particles that were used to direct Blaine Gibson to find debris in the western Indian Ocean.”
Some members of the Independent Group of experts believe it may be even further north and a map of the site extensions issued by the Malaysians ranges north of 29° S.