MH370 Debris Storm

Earlier this morning a South African radio station posted a story about a local family that found a piece of aircraft debris while on vacation in Mozambique in December.

18-year-old Liam Lotter has told East Coast Radio Newswatch while they were on holiday in Inhambane in December – he and his cousin came across what he describes as the “shiny object” while walking on the beach. They brought it back to KwaZulu-Natal. Lotter says it was only after seeing news reports last week about another piece of debris found on a sandbank off Mozambique that his family saw a possible link. Liam’s mother Candace Lotter has since been in contact with South African and Australian authorities.

The story included a couple of pictures:



UPDATE: On Friday, March 11 Reuters published more photos:

Handout photo of piece of debris found by a South African family off the Mozambique coast, which authorities will examine to see if it is from missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370

A piece of debris found by a South African family off the Mozambique coast in December 2015, which authorities will examine to see if it is from missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, is pictured in this handout photo released to Reuters March 11, 2016. REUTERS/Candace Lotter/Handout via Reuters

Handout photo of piece of debris found by a South African family off the Mozambique coast, which authorities will examine to see if it is from missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370

A piece of debris found by a South African family off the Mozambique coast in December 2015, which authorities will examine to see if it is from missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, is pictured in this handout photo released to Reuters March 11, 2016. REUTERS/Candace Lotter/Handout via Reuters

Here’s an image that provides a sense of scale:


The code “676EB” in the top photograph refers to an access panel hatch in the right-hand outboard flap of a 777. The images below show the equivalent structures on the left-hand side.

777 wing parts

Fairing.001Given that no other 777 has gone missing at sea, and that the Réunion flaperon has been conclusively identified as coming from the missing flight, then it’s very hard to imagine that this part didn’t come MH370.

Given that after nearly two years only a single piece of debris had heretofore been found, it’s extraordinary that in the span of less than two weeks three pieces of possible MH370 debris have come to light.

First, of course, was the piece found by Blaine Alan Gibson on a Mozambique sand bar in late February:

Courtesy Blaine Alan Gibson
courtesy Blaine Alan Gibson. Click to enlarge
Courtesy Blaine Alan Gibson. Click to enlarge



Followed a few days later by reports that Johnny Begue, who found the flaperon later linked to MH370 in July of 2015, had found what might be another part of the plane:


One striking feature of these three latest finds, that many people have commented on, is the striking absence of barnacles, algae, or other forms of sea life. That’s in striking contrast to the flaperon:

inboard end

Some have suggested that the pieces might have been grazed clean by crabs after making landfall, or scoured clean by the action of waves and sand. According to IB Times, one Mozambique official believes that Blaine’s piece probably did not come from MH370 for this reason:

Abreu was also quoted Friday by state news agency AIM, saying that any claim that the debris belonged to the missing Flight MH370 was “premature” and “speculative,” according to All Africa. He also expressed doubts that the debris may not be from the missing Boeing 777 as the object was too clean to have been in the ocean for the past two years. However, he reportedly said that “no aircraft which has overflown Mozambican airspace has reported losing a panel of this nature,” First Post reported, citing AIM.

Hopefully a thorough investigation by the authorities will clarify the issue.

Worth noting that the second Mozambique piece was found 125 miles south of the first one, while both of the Réunion pieces were found on the same beach.

466 thoughts on “MH370 Debris Storm”

  1. @ROB: Even if we forget military radar, the pilot chose a path that flew over Kota Bharu and not far from Penang. Both have civil radar installations that detected the plane. (Penang uses the approach radar at Butterworth.) If the pilot wanted to fly without leaving a trace, that is not an obvious choice. To me, this is a serious flaw in this theory.

    I have never seen a claim that MH370 was captured by US radar. The Malaysian radar data was shared with the US, which was the basis (as far as we know) for the push to change the search the Indian Ocean and out of the SCS.

  2. @Victor

    As I have said many times looking at the radar graphics (we still have no data) is a waste of time. The ISAT data is unambiguous relative to the fact that the aircraft had to have flown almost straight West from IGARI to get to the 18:25 ring on time.

    The usefulness of the radar information is perishable (would have helped guide S&R while there was still a possibility of survivors). At this point there is nothing to be gained by even looking at it.

  3. @Niels: From the article you referenced:

    Military goods also have been illegally shipped to China, which has been trying to obtain missile, imaging, semiconductor and submarine technology from the US, according to a Defence Department report this year.

    One important technology that China has tried to obtain is Actively Electronic Scanned Array (AESA) radar. There is a growing relationship between China and Israel related to transfer of military technology, a relationship that is watched very closely by the US.

    By coincidence, China recently installed multiple batteries of its HQ-9 missile system on Woody Island in the Paracel Islands in the SCS. The HQ-9 uses AESA radar technology, which increases its range and effectiveness. Currently the missile has a range of 200 km, and future versions are expected to have an even greater range.

  4. @VICTOR

    Point taken, but I don’t think we’re going to be singing from the same hymn sheet any time soon.
    Another point to ponder is how was it he switched the SDU back on as soon as military radar lost contact?, because that’s what it looks like, or do you think it was coincidental?
    I wondered if he had some kind of passive ECM equipment to let him know when he was out of range? Not very likely in the circumstances, but tempting to speculate. Had he pre-arranged something with the radar operators,whereby they would stop tracking after a certain time period?
    What are your thoughts?

  5. @ROB: I think you are proposing a scenario in which the pilot switched the SATCOM OFF/ON to avoid or create a track, and he also had advanced knowledge or technology relative to military radar. I think you are rapidly creating a scenario in which it is doubtful the pilot was operating on his own.

  6. @David,

    The self test is only initiated on command from the remote panel. If the ELT is triggered by a G event there is no self test signal generated. The first 406 data transmission occurs after about 50 seconds.

  7. @VICTOR

    I wasn’t proposing the scenario, so much as opening a topic for discussion.

    I don’t recall ever stating previously that I believed he acted alone. I think it rather unlikely, however. Certainly, I don’t think he had any accomplices on the plane.

  8. @Gysbreght,

    It’s not the “average” deceleration that matters. If there was an instantaneous deceleration of about 2.5G on impact that would be sufficient to trigger the ELT.

    Consider the damage to the hull, and the fact that passengers were injured. That suggests a lot more than 1G.

  9. It would seem unlikely a pilot could act alone to disappear the aircraft for such a long flight. I would argue the radar information we have proves it wasn’t flown to the SIO. By way of dual title H2O likely a common factor in helping it disappear or redirecting search away from Malaysia.

  10. @Dennis – You keep saying that to reach the 18:25 Arc (which I believe is an 18:28 Arc) MH370 would have had to fly due west. Many others have shown these was plenty of time for the diversion around Penang. SkyVector has direct IGARI to NILAM (NILAM is very close to the 18:28 Arc) as 454nm at 89° (pretty close to due west). Going around Penang is around 493nm.

    Why do your numbers disagree with the others?

  11. @ Brian Anderson. From what I have read, ELTs have a very high rate of “non-activation”, whether G- or hydro- triggered.

  12. @Brian Anderson:

    “Consider the damage to the hull, and the fact that passengers were injured.”

    You are right, the vertical acceleration at impact could well have exceeded 2.5 g. However, the NTSB accident report does not mention the ELT’s.

  13. @Lauren H

    The 18:2X arc is 460+ nautical miles due West of the last known contact near IGARI. The distance was traversed in about one hour. Draw your own conclusions.

  14. Victor, Dennis and Gysbreght I will double down by speculating that the end-of-search date results from a settlement or less likely a refusal by the insurer to pay thereafter.

  15. @DennisW

    777 cruise speed = 905 km/h = 489 knots (nm/h)

    The path through Penang is entirely consistent with this speed.

  16. SharkCaver – A lot of our discussions -Nullabor debris in this case – end up in a crater as they run down. Some from far away take comfort in the fact that this is a big place and that some elusive debris could be hiding out there because they haven’t moved 1 mm from the idea that it went in hard, spirally in the current search area. It would have been smashed up alright but there would have been a lot of such pieces in total that reached this mainland, even if not the lion share, and we had to miss them all? You are lucky you have a record of the rope on the car axle rappelling because the Grand kids might not go for it if you ever have them!! Subject respectfully closed.

    Warren Platts – What we have been dribbling on about was the Cliff section of the Bight because there are a number of well organized 4WD trekking operators in the Beach sections travelling around in small convoys. Sea Lions don’t actually have a fixed address and have a breeding cycle of over a year so they don’t breed every year and so checking rookeries wouldn’t give an true number?

    They found a dead Great White here a year or so back and cut it open and stuck in it’s throat was an intact Sea Lion. I think the local ones here in Perth cover a fair bit of ground.

    Anywhere you can walk through the desert, come to a shear cliff, and look down on this sort of thing in the whale season – that coincided with the debris season – and there will be many people making the trip then and now. And so ends my coverage of the Nullabor debris issue. Video is a bit further to the west.

  17. Victor – The story you linked about the dodgy cargoes could well be close to the heart of the matter – just my opinion. Malaysia not an incidental bystander maybe?

  18. @Phil

    I never said the path to Penang was inconsistent. I only said that the aircraft flew generally West, and that you did not need radar to draw that conclusion. Geez people, get off of it already. Even my very own published paths show the kink to accommodate over flying Penang with some “accommodation” for the LIDO Hotel graphic.

    While I have your attention, how about explaining why EK343 (which you claim was flying near 9M-MRO) is not shown in the Lido graphic.

  19. @Dennis said:
    While I have your attention, how about explaining why EK343 (which you claim was flying near 9M-MRO) is not shown in the Lido graphic

    Because the Lido graphic is a reproduction of selected radar targets over a given time, compiled into one picture. EK343 was positively identified by secondary radar and was therefore not elected to make it into the picture, probably like other positivly identified radar returns as well.

    General remark: Jeff opened up another discussion relating to radar, why is the debris part still used for discussing this subject?

  20. @RF4

    I just wasted ten minutes looking for it and you are to blame. 🙂 The notion that everyone hates me has been reinforced once again.

  21. @RF4

    The radar comments are ancient. I don’t think anyone even looks in there anymore. Besides, I did not bring up the radar question. I am focussed on debris and calling fastener manufacturers.

    Do you have a link to statements about EK343 and the specific exclusion from the LIDO graphic? My understanding was the EK343 position was deduced from ACARS messaging. Don’t really know, since I never concerned myself with it.

  22. @Dennis,
    No, I have no link.
    But it was general practice already ages ago to mark only targets of interest for the replay compilation, and those with a preset sampling rate. I looked at some of those graphs, unfortunately also some involving the loss of pilot comrades.

    Imagine all targets on such a scope would be plotted over the time with the actual sampling rate, then the whole picture would be full of returns and designators, but for none use.

  23. @VICTOR and you other guys

    Sorry, but I just want to clarify something I said to Victor at 2:42, in case it gets misconstrued. When I said “I think it rather unlikely” I meant unlikely he had any accomplices, not the other way around.
    Just shows how easy it is to get yourself in a hole.

  24. RE: EK343

    I still contend that the implications of EK343’s position should be of concern in any theory, as it could disqualify many scenarios.

    e.g. if the motive is to disappear, one must explain why one would fly directly in front of another aircraft when one could have easily slowed down a tad and slipped in behind?

    e.g. if the plane was on fire/billowing smoke, one must explain how EK343 could have failed to see a glowing fireball right in front of them?

    “Hmph… I guess they just didn’t see it” doesn’t seem like a convincing explanation in any event. People spent months analyzing & contacting someone who claimed to see something glowing orange from a distance at sea level. Has anyone really scrutinized the crew of EK343, who were apparently directly behind MH370 at the same flight level, therefore in a much better position to see something?

  25. @Phil

    How would MH370 even know the EK343 was there? I’m not being dismissive of your thoughts. I just wonder how it would be possible.

  26. @RetiredF4 and Dennis,
    I don’t know if it concerns the article about the radar mysteries, but Jeff has started to close down the comment sections from older entries because people sometimes continued to make valuable contributions but no one was reading them anymore.
    But if we are uncertain about things which might’ve been subject of an article it’s in general a good idea to re-read older articles from Jeff plus the earlier parts of the comment section when people were still making comments re: the subject of the article.
    Later we normally tend to discuss all sorts of other things as well or swap personal stories 😉

  27. I have been thinking about a particular theory for a while now, probably months and it is the most simplest theory to date, never published/announced before (i have not encountered it yet).

    This theory is based on publicly avalaible information and lacks sophistication. It also does not offer any details on the cockpit events before and after the Final Major Turn but only answers the reason it did not land in Bejing as planned.

    Unfortunately, i can not back up this theory with evidence, even though it has the support of the most easiest,simplest explanation for the dissapearance to date, it remains a theory.

    I can’t make it public yet but it really lacks all the sophistication discussed before. I suggest you guys hammering on the non-sophistication part of the matter !

  28. @ Paul Smithson,

    It is not the “non-activation” that is the problem. I think that ELTs “activate” very reliably, although there is at least one model that did have problems with the G switch.

    It is “non-detection” that is the real problem. In many instances the antenna or antenna cable is damaged in a crash. Ipso facto, triggered OK but no transmission.

    Crashes into water don’t help. Antenna under water, triggered OK but no transmission.

    The failure rate may be as high as 80% according to FAA and other authorities.

    See . . .

  29. @IR1907, now you made us all very curious.
    Why did you even mention it, if you think it can’t be told? 😉
    That you can’t prove your theory shouldn’t be the reason for not laying it out. We all can’t prove our pet theories. If we could they would be more than just theories.
    I think the benchmarks are plausibility and that there is no obvious incompatibility with known facts or the laws of physics. While it is unfortunately somewhat debatable what constitutes a known fact, the laws of physics are non-negotiable.

  30. I realize this is backtracking, but can someone explain on technical terms, how Butterworth misses 370 on their radar? Considering the close range, it should have been obvious. Given Malaysian Airlines shadiness for shipping illegal cargo, this flight could have been escorted to SIO. For all we know, this plane could have been diverted on purpose. Matbe the answer doesnt have anything to do with spoofs, or fancy physics at all, and its much simpler than we all want to belive.

  31. @Littlefoot

    I don’t blame IR1907. He might be reacting to the hostility with which my CI theory was greeted. This is a tough group.

  32. @Tex

    There is not a single example I could find in the history of commercial aviation where a plane was diverted (or hijacked if you prefer) to get either cargo or someone on the aircraft. There are many simpler ways to obtain either one.

  33. Duncan has another interesting post up, this one reasoning that debris washed ashore implies surface debris not spotted initially and reverse drifting to an endpoint from the areas missed in the initial aerial search.

    To me this is orders of magnitude more helpful than trying to make sense out of the chaos that leads to debris ending up in Africa months or years later.

  34. @IR907, Your comment was the 20,000th made on my blog. (True!) So I think you deserve some kind of a door prize–maybe a get-out-of-jail card, so that you can make the most outrageous and uncivil comment you want without fear of being banned. Or, air your theory, and I promise I won’t be mean.
    And, to everyone who has contributed to the discussion, my heartfelt thanks.

  35. @Bruce

    You might benefit from a quick read on confirmation bias.

    I did read your linked article and the preceding one. Once again there is no mention of motive or causality. The IG proudly clings to avoiding this topic. It is hard for an intelligent person to take anything the IG says seriously.

  36. @RetiredF4,

    Regarding the smoke-filled flight deck scenario, you have made good points about the desire for landing soon and waiting until final approach to determine if the visibility were adequate for a night landing. Because this was at nighttime and the flight instruments were lighted (making them easier to see) one cannot easily determine exterior visibility from high altitude except by looking for lights on the ground in places where they should be visible such as cities.

    Can you think of any explanation (with a plausible motive) for why no landing attempt was made at Penang?

  37. @Tex and others pondering the radar mysteries.

    Every good theory ought to point out the “predictions” that should follow if it were true. In the case of mainstream theory (based on the radar narrative), the following predictions can be made:-

    1. Return flight over the peninsular should have been seen by Thai civil and military radar. The aircraft should have (briefly) entered Thai airspace. They say it did not and that it was not detected by civil radar, only military. What was seen by Thai military radar was reported by AFP – specifically non-normal return. Quoted as detecting a/c from a little after 1757Z, apparently heading back towards KL. But then also goes on to say (out of quotes) that it turned right at Butterworth. But strange all the same that Thai radar is completely disregarded in the FI (“didn’t pay much attention”) even though they clearly detected a non-normal radar return. Verdict: ambiguous but certainly not “consistent”/supportive.

    2. Discontinuity at Penang turn. The only “evidence” for a turn here is “military sources”, data unspecified. Yet the turn should have been detected continuously by multiple civil and military radars. Apparently it was not, since if that data was available one would expect it to be included in the FI to provide hard evidence of what is being proposed. Verdict. Null result when we had every reason to expect one (and Penang Int’l operates 24/7 so must have had its radar operating).

    3. Indo radar, discussed many times before. Indo says explicitly that if the a/c did what it was said to have done they would have seen it on military radar (and possibly on civil radar, depending on how wide a berth Sumatra was given. They explicitly said they did not. And any “wider berth” turn around Sumatra (beyond miltary radar range) before FMT does not fit the SAT data nor credible speeds.

    So, out of three predictions (Thai, Penang/Western Hill, Indo radar visibility) we have one questionable and two null results. In short, the radar narrative’s predictions are not borne out. To “explain” this unexpected null result, some would have us believe that the radars were switched off at night.

    Explaining a null result by coming up with an even more unlikely reason for null result is not convincing. If “predictions” are not borne out, the first thing we should do is to question the core assumption (that this was the path of MH370).

    I don’t buy it. I believe that the “radar narrative” is a fiction and that the evidence is entirely consistent with this interpretation.

  38. @Brian.Thanks for that on the ELT self test and also the NZCAA report covering unreliability. If I have this right, lack of a signal indicates the aircraft broke up at impact, it being immaterial whether from antenna damage (or to its cable) or its vertical polarisation/loss of ground plane, or submersion. However this would not be supportive evidence of a high speed impact, for search area purposes, since it could apply also to a ditching in which the aircraft broke up having flown/glided further afield.
    However it is a fair indicator that the aircraft did not have a successful (fuselage largely intact) ditching, since these sources of unreliability should not apply to that. This is relevant to the interpretation of the current lack of fuselage (or contents) flotsam recovered to date and whether any continuation of that could be taken as the result of a successful controlled ditching and achievement of any minimum flotsam objective. The lack of an ELT signal would oppose that contention, while not resisting a ditching intent.
    Sorry if much of the above is going over old ground. The interpretation to be put on lack of fuselage flotsam, should that continue, is what brings me to air it.

  39. FYI: though I’m still plodding along on the drift probabilities, I did get a swift response from (ATSB comms guy) Dan O’Malley on the Fugro Discovery track repeats (about which I posted here a few weeks ago):

    “Yes, there was an issue with the sidescan sonar on Fugro Discovery’s late December towfish runs – the starboard channel sidescan sonar was found to be degraded in its outer regions. The degraded section encroached beyond the overlap section of the adjacent line. The lines were subsequently rerun with a suitable offset by Fugro Discovery during its current swing to ensure adequate SSS coverage.”

    I have a reply in, asking for the exact date the problem first became material.

    So, of the sixty or so SIO search sorties launched, this is the 5th crew/equipment “mal-de-mer” incident.

    All five involved Discovery. And all five were in a row.

    I once gave “expert witness” testimony on precisely this kind of probability. But I suspect few will need my services to arrive at a verdict, here.

  40. Dennis,

    “how about explaining why EK343 (which you claim was flying near 9M-MRO) is not shown in the Lido graphic.”

    You asked a strange question. Why would EK343 be shown at all? They showed track of an unidentified object, which was MH370 according to their beliefs based on subsequent analysis (I mean not real-time). Likely merged, ArcMapped and Photoshoped.

  41. @DrBobbyUlich
    Can you think of any explanation (with a plausible motive) for why no landing attempt was made at Penang?

    If I assume, that a landing was intended (just for the record, i do not) after expierience of multiple system faults and no comunication available, Shah would have to expect further problems like loss of other vital equipment. His plan could have been to cross the mainland to the west and follow the coast to Kuala Lumpur for a staight in landing there. This routing would provide him with visual navigational hints, keep him obstacle free, would lead him to a well known airfield and give him time to prepare the aircraft for the emergency landing . Landing at Penang was still an option in case the situation deteriorated rapidly. Flying along the coast would offer a ditching option close to land as well. But the main plan would be to land on the well known field of departure without much maneuvering after turning left at Penang and with ample rescue service available. If that emergency was that severe, why did Shah not flip the switch of the ELT from Armed to On to alert others of his severe problems?

    But i’m no believer in an emergency situation at all. The routing to Penang used by a rouge pilot would help to decept an observer into assuming, that the aircraft encountered some emergency with comm loss and was backtracking to Kuala Lumpur.

  42. @Paul Smithon
    Just an remark in advance to your well written post.
    Although ATC has primary radars available, they are onky used in the terminal area when secondary radar fails. A radar operator on a civil radar screen would blank the primary radar returns as long as secondary radar is available and working. Therefore ATC not observing MH370 after transponder was switched off is just normal.

    The most obvious reason why MH370 was lost on primary radar on its way to MEKAR and was not observed by the radars of other countries like Indonesia or Thailand could be a descent below the radar horizon. Using the TLAR (that looks about right) method I would say, anything below 15.000′ would be a good start.

    As we have progressed from the ghost flight scenario to a possible forceful intervention by somebody with the intention to avoid being tracked and intercepted it is beyond my imagination, that such a flight would be performed at high altitude.

    Could anybody explain, why we still discuss such high level autopilot fligh as a given and only option to fly such an aircraft during this phase of the flight? Such a profile would not fit the intention to stay undetected for some perp.

    There is also the possibility that the radar was not manned, the operator failed, or the radar being of for maintenance, which has to be done sometime.

    That leaves two possibilities for me. The gohst flight MH370 combined with bad luck and f***up of the military of three countries,


    Forcefull intervention flight with successfull avoidance of being painted by primary radar along the routing by routing and altitude profile. In that case the initial part from IGARI to Penang was a clever deception by flying routing and profile an airliner would fly upon returning to Kuala Lumpur for landing. No need to send fighters after such a plane. And when it did not turn south after Penang but to the north west and disappeared from radar, it was too late to react.

  43. Bruce,

    Re “Duncan has another interesting post up, this one reasoning that debris washed ashore implies surface debris”

    Truly Duncan’s style. First arrogantly discard something as impossible. Then to proudly admit the obvious.

    I am sure, in a year or so IG will realize (and proudly claim) that the debris was carried by currents and pushed by winds, so that even 100%-geographic-coverage of the suspect area could miss the debris field during the month-long search phase. In other words the picture was not static. Just imaging youself at a riverside: you can see how various stuff passes by. Now imagine you travel downstream with the same speed as water flows.

    As a matter of fact, I would be interested to see the air coverage area “projected” on March 8, 2014.

  44. @Dennis, that there hasn’t been a single precedent where an aircraft was hijacked because someone wanted to get at it’s cargo or was after (a) passenger(s) doesn’t exclude at all that it happened for the first time on March 8, 2014. Nobody had ever hijacked a plane at all – until it happened for the first time.
    A lot of things connected with mh370 are a first. And I can think of many good reasons for hijacking a plane in order to get access to the cargo or (a) passenger(s). In connection with a spoof these scenarios work even better because in that case hardly anybody even suspects that a certain faction might’ve laid their hands on cargo and/or passengers. Except for Jeff and a handful of people everybody believes the plane and it’s content are somewhere at the bottom of the IO. And yes, there’s no known incident where sat data have been spoofed. But according to Gerry Soejatman and others a few countries like Russia, China, Israel and probably the US have experimented with spoofing. There must’ve been a good reason for those experiments. Maybe someone put the gained knowledge to good use – for the very first time.

  45. RetiredF4,

    “Could anybody explain, why we still discuss such high level autopilot fligh as a given and only option to fly such an aircraft during this phase of the flight?”

    IG has declared that MH370 flew along N571 at FL340 or FL350. Consequently it was concluded that it would be impossible to fly along N571 at FL340 without AP assistance by Waypoints, followed by HDG or TRK HOLD mode. Every data/observation inconsistent with this was declared as unreliable. IG has even produced a report, where they presented “facts”. That is why the majority is still chewing the same bubblegum.

  46. Excluding a scenario because it has never happend before is dangerous because this kind of argument underestimates human ingenuity and capacity for innovation. And clever criminals exploit this rigid mindset time and again.
    In connection with mh370 it might not be useful to look for precedents. When we assess a certain scenario we should simply ask: is it technically possible, would it have been advantageous for the perps, and is there a group of people who had the knowledge and the resources for putting their knowhow into practice.

  47. @matty – perth

    > [the aircraft] would have been smashed up alright but there would have been
    >a lot of such pieces in total that reached this mainland, even if not the lion share, and
    >we had to miss them all?

    There is some data (not modelling) that bears on this point.

    You will recall the Global Drifter undrogued buoy data that David Griffin at CSIRO published. He has two datasets of drifters that started in or moved through the search area, the first set (~100 buoys) selected for doing so in the months Feb to April (of all years) and the second set not selected by month (~200). None of the first set landed on the Australian west coast, three landed on the Great Australian Bight and one further west on the south coast. Four of the second set landed on the west coast. Statistically none out of 100 is not significantly different from four out of 200, so it is not clear that the season has a systematic effect on the probability of the drifter reaching the west coast.

    Examination of the tracks of drifters approaching the west coast suggests they encounter eddies on the western edge of the south-going Leeuwin current that spin them back out to sea again into what is generally a northern flow. The drifters that land on the south coast are in the group that is directly driven east from the search area and pass south of Australia.

    The applicability of the undrogued drifter data to the finally detailed modelling has been discussed, but the buoy data does not suggest any process that was forcing the drifters (and by extension, debris) onto the Australian west coast.

    There are a couple of initial images, with the link to the original data from Griffin, at the link below. I am still playing with the kml files.

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