In new developments in the search for MH370, search co-ordinator and retired defence chief Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston has confirmed that the Bluefin 21 remote underwater vehicle will be released to search for the black boxes on the ocean floor.
Last Tuesday (April 8th) was the last time a ping was heard from the possible black box and given it has been 38 days since the crash, it is likely that the batteries on the black boxes have run out. As a result of this, the Ocean Shield will stop towing the pinger locater today.
Angus Houston reports the 4 signals acquired early last week give the most promising lead in the search for MH370. “The four pings that were heard by Ocean Shield early last week have helped refine and reduce the search zone into a manageable area” he stated. Given that the batteries on the black box locaters have likely expired coupled with a refined search area, it is now appropriate to send down the Bluefin 21 to search and map the ocean floor. The depth of the search area is 4500m which is at the limit of the Bluefin’s capabilities. Whilst there are other vehicles that can go deeper these will only be sourced should they be needed.
Mr Houston stresses that this is a slow and painstaking process. Over a 24 hour period it will take two hours for the Bluefin to reach the ocean floor and another two hours to return to the surface. The vehicle will search the floor for 16 hours and it will take approximately four hours for the data to be downloaded once it is back on the surface.
The first search zone will be 5kms x 8kms giving a total search area of 40 square kilometres.
In additional news, two litres of an oil slick have been collected from the search area and are en route to a lab for identification. Mr Houston again stressed that whilst the oil slick found is within the search zone there is no guarantee that it is from the missing plane.