Searchers just need to find one fragment of debris from missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 which disappeared on March 8, and it will be the fingerprint to start unravelling the mystery that has gripped the world for 26 days.
According to one of the world’s leading oceanographers, Professor Charitha Pattiaratchi, Winthrop professor of coastal oceanography at the University of Western Australia, any piece of debris will enable his team to track it back to the impact point on March 8.
Yesterday Professor Pattiaratchi released an animation which you can see below that depicts the current search area and five possible impact points for the purpose of demonstration.
The animation shows five areas of debris and how they would have floated away from the impact point over the past three weeks.
There are five large eddies in the search area.
This contrast the original search area where there is predominantly one strong west to east current.
Depending upon on which eddies the plane impacted some debris moves hundreds of kilometres while in other impact areas its remains broadly in the same location.
The University of Western Australia Ocean Institute tracks Indian Ocean currents daily and the data is stored for research.
However according to Professor Pattiaratchi, while we know a lot about the surface of the ocean in the search area we know very little about the ocean floor.
“We know more about the surface of the moon than we know about this area of ocean.”
“It is possibly the least surveyed in the world,” said Professor Pattiaratchi.
Know as the Diamantina Fracture Zone it was last surveyed in 1961 by the HMAS Diamantina which it was named after.
In the northern part of the search zone the sea floor is 2000m deep but the area is divided by a featured called Broken Ridge which runs east-west and on the south side the sea floor drops off to 4000m.
Nine ships are now in the search zone and have been tasked to search in four separate areas.
The Australian Defence Vessel Ocean Shield departed HMAS Stirling on Monday with a Pinger Locator and Bluefin-21 Autonomous Underwater Vehicles which have sides-scan sonar capability.
The Bluefin-21 found Air France 447.
On Tuesday Air Chief Marshall Angus Houston, who is leading the Joint Coordination centre in Perth Western Australia, warned that the search is extremely difficult.
“I have to say in my experience – and I have got a lot of experience in search and rescue over the years – this search and recovery operation is probably the most challenging I have ever seen,” he said.
“We’ve been searching for many, many days and so far have not found anything connected with MH370.”
Air Chief Marshal Houston said it was not known what altitude and speed the aircraft was travelling at and authorities were relying on the best information available.
“I think at this stage that it’s very important to pursue all the leads,”
Yesterday nine planes were in the search area and more are expected to join the international effort.
To manage all the planes in the search zone the Royal Australian Air Force has deployed its Wedgetail spy plane to act as an air traffic controller.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak will arrive at Pearce Air Base late Wednesday April 2 to inspect the operations
Conditions in the search area yesterday were difficult according to the Commander of Joint Task Force 658, Commodore Peter Leavy.
“The surface search vessels are experiencing strong winds and heavy seas, but conditions are expected to ease.
“The priority remains to find objects that can be linked to missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370,” Commodore Leavy said.