Bioforensic Analysis of Suspected MH370 Debris UPDATED x2

Blaine Alan Gibson with 'No Step'
Blaine Alan Gibson with ‘No Step.’ Photo courtesy Blaine Alan Gibson


Recently two pieces of debris that may have come from missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 were found on the coast of Mozambique.

The first piece was discovered on February 27 by American lawyer Blaine Alan Gibson on a sand bar near the town of Vilankulo (top left). Composed of fiberglass skin around an aluminum honeycomb core, and bearing the words “no step,” the piece is widely presumed to be a part of a 777 horizontal stabilizer. A fastener found attached to the part carried an identifying number that is consistent with, though not exclusive to, a 777. Soon after the find was made public Malaysia’s transport minister Liow Tiong Lai tweeted that there was a “high possibility debris found in Mozambique belongs to a B777.”

Closeup of 'No Step' exterior
Closeup of “No Step” exterior. Photo courtesy Blaine Alan Gibson.


The second object was reported on March 11 by South African teenager Liam Lötter, who found it on a beach near the resort town of Xai Xai in southern Mozambique in December. Approximately a meter long, it carries the stencilled code “676EB,” which is written on the right-hand outboard flap farings of Boeing 777s. Its material, a hybrid of fiberglass and carbon fiber, is also consistent with a 777 flap fairing.

Lötter holding flap fairing
Liam Lötter with the object he found in Mozambique, presumed to be part of a 777 flap fairing.


The fact that MH370 was the only Boeing 777 lost over the ocean lends weight to the supposition that both parts come from that aircraft.

The pieces’ appearance, however, is quite different from that of the first (and so far, only confirmed) piece of MH370, the plane’s right-hand flaperon, which was found on Réunion on July 29, 2015. Every edge of the flaperon, and much of its broad surface area, was encrusted with goose barnacles of the genus Lepas. The flaperon also had been settled across much of its surface by a brownish algae. Both of the recently discovered pieces are relatively free of marine growth.

This article will explore what the presence or absence of marine growth indicates about how the three pieces traveled through the ocean.

Marine Fouling

When man-made material is immersed in an oceanic ecosystem, a number of plant, animal, and microbial species will begin to settle and grow upon its surface, a process known as “marine biofouling” because historically the process has attracted the most attention as a nuisance to mariners.

Marine biologists study the process using devices called “settling plates” or “fouling panels,” rectangles of material which are put in the water and then observed as time goes by. “The first thing that settles is microalgae, which looks like a slimy brown scummy scuzz,” says Cathryn Clarke Murray, a marine biologist who studies floating debris at the North Pacific Marine Science Organization. Out in the open ocean, microalgae is followed by bryozoans, moss-like filter feeders, and goose barnacles of the genus Lepas. “I’ve found paper bags that have blown into the Pacific and have barnacle larvae on them,” says Bloomsburg University professor Cynthia Venn, who has been studying marine organisms for decades.

vancouver_port monitoring 2010 067 copy
Example of a fouling panel colonized by golden star tunicates (aka sea squirts) during a three-month immersion near Vancouver, Canada. Photo courtesy Cathryn Clarke Murray


Given the great size of the Earth’s oceans, and the relatively slow speed at which objects drift (on the order of dozens of miles per day), objects encountered on the open sea have plenty of time to become colonized. During a survey of debris in the Pacific, marine biologist Miriam Goldstein collected 242 objects and found that all had organisms growing on them except for two that were one square inch in size. University of Florida biologist Mike Gil conducted a similar survey voyage in the eastern Pacific and says that “we didn’t find any clean debris, bottle cap size and larger.”

The mix of species present on an object can yield clues about how it has drifted, a process that renowned invertebrate biologist James Carlton, director of the Williams-Mystic Maritime Studies Program, has labeled “bioforensics.” In his study of marine debris washed out to sea during the Japanese tsunami of 2011, Carlton says, he found “we can track debris across the ocean using two species of bryozoans. One’s cold water, one’s warm water. When I get a boat that lands in Washington or Oregon and has the warm-water bryozoan, it tells me that it went well south before turning north.” Similarly, Carlton has been able to identify debris that traveled south along the coast of Japan before crossing the Pacific by the presence of sea life endemic to that area.

Unfortunately, the flaperon discovered on Réunion Island has been closely held by French investigators since its discovery, so is not known if such a bioforensic analysis has been conducted.

While the presence of certain species can indicate the route its home drifted, the size of individuals can indicate how long an object has been at sea—with some important caveats. Water temperature and the presence of nutrients both affect how quickly an organism will grow. Those on tsunami debris that was carried along through the nutrient-rich waters of the Aleutian chain and wound up in the Pacific Northwest grew faster, and in greater profusion, than those which grew on debris that followed a more tropical route and came ashore in Hawaii.

In order to gauge the time that an object has been in the water, then, it’s important to have a baseline against which to measure. For instance, here’s a boat that spent eight months drifting from Australia to the island of Mayotte in the western Indian ocean.

Mayotte boat


By comparing the size of the barnacles with the known dimensions of the boat, it is possible to ascertain that they have a maximum capitulum length of 3.5 cm.

And here are Lepas barnacles that grew on the Réunion flaperon.


Given the similarity in latitudes between Réunion and Mayotte, and the fact that the flaperon is believed also to have begun its journey off the west coast of Australia, the temperatures and nutrient levels experienced by both objects should be roughly the same. Applying the same photographic analysis yields a capitulum length of 2.3 cm. Adjusting known Lepas growth rates for the age and size of the Mayotte Lepas specifimens, the size of the Lepas barnacles on the Réunion flaperon suggests it was in water between four and six months.

This technique cannot be applied to the objects found in Mozambique because there are no identifiable forms of marine life visible on them. This absence of visible growth, however, allows us to put an upper bound on the amount of time they were in the water.

“If I put a piece of fiberglass into the ocean, I would expect to see that kind of scummy scuzz about a month after,” says Murray. However, in photographs the pieces of Mozambique debris “look pretty clean to me,” she says.

Flap fairing closeup
A closeup of the presumed flap fairing.


Shown an image of the new debris and asked how long the pieces look like they’ve been in the water, Jim Carlton says, “My gut instinct would be [that these pieces have been] not long at sea. Not long at sea, because we presume that if you are at sea, you’re going to get Lepas and bryozoans and other oceanic species on you. If you drift in the coastal zone, you’ll pick up coastal barnacles.” Given all that, he cites a possible immersion time of “a couple of days.”

No Step Closeup 2

No Step closeup copy
A closeup of ‘No Step’ honeycomb


Sam Chan, who studies invasive species at Oregon State University and regularly conducts settling plate experiments on the Pacific coast, says that he finds the clean condition of the honeycombs to be telling. “Not to see marine growth in the honeycomb structure was surprising to me,” he says. “The settling plates we put in the water actually look very much like the honeycomb structure, because it’s a good environment for them to settle.” He says the amount of time the objects have been in the water “could be a couple of weeks. It’s certainly not indicative of something that has been in the water for multiple years, let alone even half a year.” He adds, “If there’s no fouling, was it even in the water?”

Local Mozambique officials who were able to examine the Gibson piece firsthand were similarly skeptical. Joao de Abreu, the director of Mozambique’s National Civil Aviation Institute, was quoted by his government’s official news agency as saying that the object was too clean to have been in the ocean for two years.

Henry Carson, a marine biologist at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, points out that fish sometimes congregate around floating debris in the ocean and can reduce the populations of organisms growing on it. “A colleague of mine encountered a piece of a boat in the middle of the Pacific–I believe also made of fiberglass–that had very few barnacles–and a lot of fish,” he says. “Presumably the grazing fish had kept the barnacles from becoming established. Your pieces could also have sheltered a substantial fish community. Not sure the fish would keep it 100% clean, though, especially of all algae and bryozoans.”

In the Pacific Northwest, it’s not uncommon for beachcombers to find pieces of tsunami debris that have no significant accumulation of marine life on them, but these tend to be highly buoyant objects like pieces of polystyrene foam or smooth, round buoys and floats. “I can only think this stuff rolls on the sea surface,” says Carlton. “Between the UV and getting baked and dried out, dessication’s going to do a job, these things come in whistle clean.”

AK tsunami debris
An example of tsunami found washed up on US coast with almost no biofouling.


Obviously that neither of the Mozambique pieces would fit that description, but Carlton points out that it might be possible to imagine a scenario in which they floated across an ocean and then became beached, whereupon it dried out, was foraged upon by terrestrial animals and scoured by wind and sand, then washed out to sea again for a few days before becoming beached again. “One can imagine these scenarios,” he says. “Their probability is another matter.”

Other biologists disagree that weathering and predation could plausibly erase all trace of prior colonization. “We usually see some evidence left, even if it’s been dried out on the beach for a while,” says Murray. “You would see barnacle shells, or the byssal threads from the mussels, even if the mussel’s gone. Usually you see something. I can’t see anything in these pictures.”

“Even if beached and tumbled and baked for some time, I would expect to see a lattice of bryozoan skeletons, barnacle attachment scars, and some staining from where algae had grown. A lot of those things are pretty resilient,” says Carson. “I don’t see any of that in the close-up pictures.”

Says Chan, “There could be some time of feeding or predation, but within that honeycomb structure you would probably still see some remnants, and I just don’t see any.”

Carlton agrees that the condition of the Mozambique debris is puzzling. “Without any bioforensic evidence,” he says, “it’s just a headscratcher.”


The absence of biofouling on a piece of suspected aircraft debris recovered in Mozambique in December, 2015 suggests that it entered the water no earlier than October of that year. The absence of biofouling on a piece of suspected aircraft debris recovered in Mozambique in February, 2016 suggests that it entered the water no earlier than January, 2016. It is entirely possible that one or both of the Mozambique objects were never in the ocean at all.

All of these results counterindicate a scenario in which these pieces of debris were generated by a crash on March 8, 2014 near the area currently being searched by the ATSB. It is incumbent on all the relevant authorities to make public the details of a close examination of the parts, in order to determine how these objects could have arrived in the western Indian Ocean.

Update 3-17-16

I’m adding a couple of videos that Blaine very graciously shared with me, to show how his piece floated in the water. It should be fairly clear that this is not a spherical-float kind of situation. One end of the piece is denser than seawater and is going to be submerged whether or not the piece is occasionally flipped by waves.



Update 3-18-16

David Griffin, an oceanographer with Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), has expended considerable effort working with drift models to understand how ocean currents may have dispersed debris from a crash site in the southern Indian Ocean. In response to Blaine Alan Gibson’s Mozambique find, he writes on the CSIRO web site: “this item is not heavily encrusted with sea life” and therefore “time at sea is therefore possibly much less than the 716 days that have elapsed since 14 March 2014.”

A number of readers have speculated about various factors that may have kept marine organisms from taking up residence on these objects. The fact is that unless a piece is made entirely of smooth unbroken plastic (and usually even then), it is going to acquire a coating of marine life after a certain amount of time at sea. To see a lot of examples of how objects of different size, shape, and material accumulate debris, here is a gallery of Japanese tsunami debris found washed up in Hawaii. And here is a gallery of stuff that washed up in the Pacific Northwest of the USA.

362 thoughts on “Bioforensic Analysis of Suspected MH370 Debris UPDATED x2”

  1. @Oleksandr / RetiredF4

    In the previous thread (now closed) you were asking about Car Nicobar. Some time ago RetiredF4 was looking at a path in that general direction. As I recall Car Nicobar was feasible, but I could not get Port Blair to work out.

    RetiredF4 had a reason for discarding Car Nicobar, but I forget what it was. Maybe he will chime in here.

  2. Good info, Jeff. One may not, under the apparent circumstances, conclude that these recently found pieces are necessarily what they first seem to be. I,m not a conspiracy fan, as many know, but this situation smacks of human intervention, regarding the distribution of the debris. Is there any accounting of various smashed pieces of the MH17 incident? I’m not sure…

  3. @jeffwise – I’m not in a position to challenge your experts but I can say that I have found various types of debris along the Atlantic Ocean beaches of Long Island, NY – USA and found them to be extremely clean. However, these beaches typically have waves of 1 to 4 feet crashing in and “sandblasting” any debris. The pictures of the waters in the Mozambique Channel looked too calm to have cleaned the “NO STEP” piece.

    @VictorI – I’was waiting for you to chime in on the previous thread. Didn’t you say that the speed from the diversion to last radar was consistent with LRC?

    @Retired4F – from page 17 of the DTSG report:

    “ The radar data contains regular estimates of latitude, longitude and altitude at 10 second intervals from 16:42:27 to 18:01:49. A single additional latitude and longitude position was reported at 18:22:12.”

    Doesn’t that mean that not only was there no data within the “white circle,” there was no radar data from around Palau Perak to the single last detection point? And wouldn’t that mean most of the “Lido” information was estimated?

    @ROB – While the burn rate at lower altitudes is more than at cruising altitude, the increase is not “massive.” The data I found suggests that it would be less than double normal cruise rates and less than the burn rate at take-off or initial climb.

  4. @Jeff

    Nice. I never posted my summary on the fastener, only the conclusion since most of the other stuff falls in the “tinsel” category. I link it below since it would seem to belong in this section.

    The feedback you are getting is not something I wanted to hear. It would seem there are few ways to explain the absence of biofouling that do not suggest some sort of human intervention.

  5. Thank you Jeff for actually contacting marine biologists about the clean appearance of debris. Although there might be differing opinions, it is hard to ignore what these professionals say.

    It will be interesting to see if the ATSB conducts its own bioferensic evaluation of the debris, assuming the parts ever arrive. I don’t think either the ATSB or Malaysia has definitively stated when the parts will be arriving in Australia. And needless to say, we’re still awaiting the results of the French flaperon investigation.

  6. @Lauren, the “sandblasting theory” which has been voiced here frequently in order to explain the relatively clean appearance of the debris doesn’t hold water IMO. Sandblasting can have a cleaning effect to a certain degree but it would also dim and matte the paint. The No Step lettering would look very different and the coat appearance would be less shiny. Liam Lötter actually told the media that his cousin said he saw something shiny and that’s how they spotted the debris. You can also compare the new debris with the flaperon whose paint isn’t shiny at all even at more or less clean spots. But the most important argument against the sandblasting theory: it can’t blast all traces of biofouling and plain old dirt out of the honeycombs. The appearance of the honeycombs simply isn’t plausible if the debris has been out in the elements for two years. Shouldn’t they be at least full of sand since they’ve been found on the beach. We all know that sand on the beach gets into everything, into the tiniest crevasses in a very short time. I always zip lock my e-reader in plastic bags in order to prevent the sand from ruining it.

  7. @Dennis, I’m sorry to hear that Jeff’s information which he laid out in a very good article doesn’t agree with what you wanted to hear. 😉
    Maybe you should digest Jeff’s article and give the information he got from marine biologists a fair chance. Don’t get sidetracked by clean debris you might’ve found at the Pacific coast and forget about the missing barnacles. Their absence can be explained. But nothing I heard so far explains the appearance of the honeycombs – and some experts in Mozambique who actually saw and handled Blaine’s piece ruled it out.

  8. better check first that the youngster south african didn’t take a pressure washer to “his” piece. if he didn’t, that thing would get pretty stinky and not the sort of thing his mum would let him prop up in the corner 🙂

  9. @Jeff
    I’m glad Carlton mentions the influence of sunshine (UV, temperature). For me that is the most likely explanation as I’ve mentioned before.
    The two Moz.finds were done in local summer. I’ve been to the area myself (including some Inhambane beaches); it gets really burning hot at the beaches at mid-day in summer. A couple of weeks at the beach would likely do the job IMO.

  10. @littlefoot – I agree, specially about the cleanliness of the honeycomb. Those beachcombers did get their 15 minutes of fame.
    However, if not from MH370, I wonder where the pieces originated and how they became to look like they were ripped off of a plane?

  11. You would see SOMETHING in the aluminum honeycomb. If these were all basically 2-dimensional flat smallish pieces, it would be much easier for me to buy into a sandblasting explanation. But these are multi-layered complex pieces of wreckage, with a no shortage of nooks and crannies that sandblasting isn’t going to be able to completely clean out. Or for that matter, at least house a large amount of sand. Did anyone ask the lawyer the degree to which he bathed and flushed out the pieces?

    For it to be all clean… doesn’t make sense at all. Can’t imagine the scenario for that, and it seems neither really can the biologists spoken to. And nobody among them can imagine a realistic scenario in which any of these pieces could have been at sea starting March 2014.

    This speaks loudly to me, more so than any other factor often discussed in these forums.

  12. re: lack of biological signs on Mozambique artifacts

    A. We can’t say there are no marks, because we don’t have the pieces. My interpretation of them is that there do seem to be some calcareous residues on portions of those pieces.

    B. There are other marine experts who have said that “sandblasting”, predators, UV could account for lack of marine organisms.

    C. Let’s not forget that the flaperon was not completely encrusted with barnacles. E.g., they were mostly missing from the broad, flat flight control surfaces.

    Conclusion: IMHO the presence or lack of biomaterial is not a measure of how long the part has been in the water, but is rather a measure of how long it’s been OUT of the water. YMMV

  13. Anyone remember this line from Body Heat?

    “I want you to see if this sounds familiar: any time you try a decent crime, you got fifty ways you’re gonna fuck up. If you think of twenty-five of them, then you’re a genius… and you ain’t no genius.”

    Putin’s no genius, apparently. But after this, just don’t be surprised if the debris passes the bioforensic straight-face test.

  14. I grew up at the beach and once barnacles attach to an object they were there for good, but we didn’t have predators that fed off of them. I’m wondering, are the two newest pieces of debris made of the same material as the flapperon? Maybe barnacles don’t attach as easily on some materials.

  15. @matty
    > Hypothetically, if a few hundred life jackets got dispersed for instance we have about a dozen sitting around here?

    Around a dozen on the west coast if the 4 out of 200 statistic is used, rather fewer if the none out of 100 statistic is the basis (calculating 95% limits on the possible probabilities using that data).

    But that is assuming all 350 life jackets escape the aircraft and survive six months in the water. If a smaller proportion get that far, then the number on the coast is reduced.

  16. @ Jeff
    You opened again a can of worms, and I’m looking already forward to the next one:
    -who could have had an interest to plant false evidence-
    No, its not the time tomanswer that question yet.

    @Lauren H.

    “ The radar data contains regular estimates of latitude, longitude and altitude at 10 second intervals from 16:42:27 to 18:01:49. A single additional latitude and longitude position was reported at 18:22:12.”

    Doesn’t that mean that not only was there no data within the “white circle,” there was no radar data from around Palau Perak to the single last detection point? And wouldn’t that mean most of the “Lido” information was estimated?

    I would call the phraseology used in the report being cautious. Only a single source was available and no positive confirmed identification of the “unknown target ” could be done. The dat could confirm the turnback, as the time and distance from the point where secondary radar contact was lost could be correlated with the primary radar contact. Later on when crossing the mainland and in the straits of Malacca there was no continuous track, although it seems a logical conclusion that the observed unknown target was MH370. Within the white circle the rarar return was lost completely, therefore nomestimatemconcerning the position and track could be done. The radar itself measures slant range to the target. The following computations leading to height, grounddistance and groundspeed of the target are the better the more stations would track the target, which was obviously not the case.

    Yes all the radar data after the turnback probably lack accuracy, but would that change the overall,value of the radar data? I think not. And I also dont think that they are less accurate than a path plotted with the available ISAT data.

  17. @Dennis, thank you for linking to your very interesting blog. I’ve been reading it a while and don’t want to stop : )

    May I make a comment about your ‘Holmes’ entry from last December?

    Just the idea of a hijack in order to get to somewhere the plane wasn’t meant to go, or to attack something as a terrorist act, etc etc – whatever the motive – well, I’ve wondered for a while now whether it might have been something like that, which went wrong.

    Sort of goes like this: passenger decides to attempt hijack, knocks out comms, tries to take control;

    Crew resist

    Bit chaotic all round, and in the process the PF manages somehow to NOT go where the hijacker wants them to, but also ends up on a course that suits no one and no particular end.

    And no one can do much about it because they’ve all been overcome by one another/depressurisation incident/etc.

    So it flies on quite a distance and then, well, obviously enters the drink.

    I’m sure there are vast holes in this theory but as it’s a kind of combo, I thought I’d mention it.

    It leaves the crew’s reputation intact, which sits well with me, and doesn’t have to involve a fire or other implausible structural situation.

    Those may be its only merits however.

    Thoughts appreciated, and sorry for the thread drift.

  18. @Littlefoot

    My “not wanting to hear” is not a reflection on the quality of Jeff’s forensics, but rather an expression of dismay that the debris finds seem to be complicating issues rather than simplifying them.

  19. Do we know if there any difference in paints used for the flaperon and other fragments in question?

    The issue is that a traditional way to get rid or reduce bio-fouling is to use copper and its compounds. For example, bio-fouling is especially annoying problem for aquatic optical sensors. However, I can hardly think of any copper parts in control surfaces of an aircraft, except wiring, due to its density. But recently I have realised that copper is also often used in paints. In addition, epoxy and other raisins are also toxic. Could it be a reason? The flaperon was relatively undamaged so that its interior was not exposed to the seawater in contrast to the two Mozambican fragments.

    Here is an interesting review of paints used to prevent biofouling, which also discusses barnacles:

  20. @Oleksandr: How would you explain the lack of marine life in the honeycomb material? Neither the aluminum nor the Nomex cores show any signs of biofouling.

  21. Victor,

    Aluminium honeycomb is glued to “sandwich” surfaces. The clue might be in glue. Slowly dissolving or decaying glue may release (or may not – I don’t know for sure) toxic stuff into the seawater. This would have similar effect as antifouling paints.
    BTW, led and zink compounds are also often added into paints, and they are also toxic for marine life.

  22. It seems the Flaperon found in Reunion If had same anti fouling effects as these more recent debris then even still at least some marine life should be attached in the areas where the anti fouling substances wasn’t applied.

  23. IMO, the argument of antifouling properties of airplane parts or paints, glues, etc. doesn’t fly.

    I am a GRP boat owner and regularly re-apply antifouling paint. Despite this paint being designed to prevent, or rather retard, marine growth, marine fouling begins to appear within a mere months from new re-application.

  24. @Oleksandr: Sure, there could be some glue that happens to have properties such that any marine life in its proximity is killed. And perhaps that same glue was used on both parts that landed in Mozambique, even though the core materials were different. Although possible, I’ll maintain a healthy dose of skepticism.

  25. What would anti-fouling agents be doing on a plane?

    The honeycomb is the big problem – is there any way to clean that out at all, if it was fouled up with growth? Seems impossible to me without some careful chemical treatments? AS they indicate in the article, and as we said at the time – many of us – it looks scrubbed clean.

  26. Littlefoot,

    A long time ago, when Victor suggested landing at Banda Aceh to explain whereabouts of the plane 18:22-19:41, I also considered Car Nicobar for the same reason. Car Nicobar is interesting due to orientation of its runway, which is nearly coinciding with the ghost-flight in HDG or TRK HOLD modes, derived from BTO & BFO data. The problem was that time was insufficient if radar position 18:22 is true; in my estimation around 20 more minutes would be needed.

    I will try to answer your questions in brief:

    – “why should whoever piloted mh370 have landed the plane at an Indian air base in the middle of the night?”

    This depends on a scenario. We discussed possibility of reloading cargo and/or passengers into other aircraft – kidnapping, for example. In the technical failure scenario that could be explained by long runway, avoidance of collision on the ground, and approach over the water (both ends of the runway are facing water).

    – “Don’t you think a lot of people including those who were stationed there would’ve noticed that?”

    That was a point of my arguing with Victor about Bands Aceh. In contrast to the latter, Car Nicobar is not as heavily populated. Also, it is a military base, so that landing would not attract much attention of civilians.

    -“There are almost 30000 people living on that tiny island.”

    Wiki says about 20000 (2011 census); others stay on numerous islands nearby. On top of it, most of them are villagers; the largest village has population of around 4000. Usually villagers sleep at midnight. A number of people, who could notice something unusual would be very small.

    -“And the even bigger question: why do you think it was subsequently re-started and sent southwards?”

    To get rid of the aircraft itself. Isn’t it the most perfect way? No traces, no witnesses, no fingerprints.

    -“As a ghost flight or actively piloted?”
    As a ghost flight. What would be required is only to take the aircarft in the air.

  27. @MuOne, I agree. Also why should a plane sport an anti-marine-life coat? It’s not a boat. But I think this idea has already been debunked elsewhere.

  28. Jeff,

    It would be interesting to know opinions of the experts, with whom you discussed the debris. Plastic is one thing – it is neutral; epoxy, resins and anti-fouling paints are the other thing. Some toxic stuff could potentially be released from the glue due to the intense UV radiation or oxidation/decomposition at the surface.

  29. Matty,

    The surface of an aircraft often gets wet. Fungue would immidiately start growing in warm tropical weather. Even on comparatively clean glass.

    The other aspect is that some chemical compounds of copper, led and zinc are traditionally used in paints. A typical white acrylic paint contains zinc oxide, which makes it white. Copper compounds result in blue color.

    But in this particular case I am interested in the glue, which was used to attach honeycombs. It shows clear signs of the decay. It was not exposed to the seawater/UV light in the case of relatively intact flaperon.

  30. @Olexandr, thanks for laying the Car Nicobar scenario out in detail.
    I agree that many of the arguments against such a scenario also apply to Victor’s Banda Aceh scenario. I would argue however that at a big airport where planes start and land until late at night and where the runways are illuminated, the landing and subsequent starting of one more airplane has a lot more chances to go unnoticed than at Car Nicobar where the sheer size of a B777 would stick out. And the would have to illuminate the runway, maybe even install illumination. That could potentially attract a lot of unwanted witnesses who might notice that something out of the ordinary might be going on. Also, since this is an Indian air base, at least some of those stationed there must’ve gone rogue in such a scenario. That cannot be excluded of course – especially if the booty was rich.
    I have no problems with the concept that the plane was subsequently sent into the SIO as a ghost flight. That part makes a lot of sense and has already attracted me to Victor’s Banda Aceh landing scenario. Which seems to be more likely to me than Car Nicobar for the reasons I mentioned above. Also, the whole Banda Aceh area in Sumatra has a big percentage of muslims, many of them belonging to the more extremist fringes.I could imagine a heist scenario where the booty is intended for an islamist group like ISIS. Extremists from the Banda Aceh area might help. The logistics seem to work better than for Car Nicobar, which is not a known problem zone.
    The landing on a small island seems possible to me if the runway is a bit isolated from the living quarters and if the authorities on that island have been in on it. Have you made a detailed plan which is compatible with the sat data?
    For your consideration: couldn’t the perps have exited the plane with paragliders and the booty after they set it on a course into the SIO? In a re-start scenario the pilot who took off with the plane needed to exit the plane after all before it went on it’s way towards the SIO. Why then even land the plane? That makes everything much more complicated. If one person has to exit the plane why couldn’t the others have left the plane by that means, too?
    It’s a crazy scenario – but not crazier than a landing at Car Nicobar IMO. And all mh370 scenarios are crazy one way or another.
    Again, you would need to make a detailed calculation.
    Another question: why would the perps leave the SDU on? Were they aware of the pings and wanted to guide the investigators towards the SIO?

  31. Littlefoot,

    “Why should a plane sport an anti-marine-life coat?”

    Same answer: fungue. I would be very surprised if anti-fouling agents are not used to paint B777. I can assure you, this thing may easily spoil your camera if you stay in tropical zone for a few months. In Malaysia, for example.

  32. Oleksandr – jets spend a decent part of their lives well below zero? That might take care of some cling-ons? Malaysian automobiles don’t seem to struggle? We have tropical zones here in Australia as well. Never heard of such issues…..doesn’t mean there are none.

  33. Other factor is depth in the ocean. The confirmed Reunion flaperon could have broken off the plane at impact, and floated on the oceans surface, eventually collecting and growing barnacles and other marine organisms. If the plane or it’s remains is in water depths over 10,000 feet, very little grows down there. Maybe bouyant pieces (honeycomb) are slowly being dislodged or break away from the wreck over time, float to the surface, where abundant marine growth could start. What I’m saying is these clean parts could be from the same plane, but spent much less time in the shallow ocean “growth zone” as the confirmed barnacle encrusted flaperon. It seems a sharp analyst could figure out how long a “clean” piece could stay clean on the ocean surface, look at drift currents, wind influence, and come up with some kind probability curves as to where and when the piece popped to the surface.

  34. @TJ: The pressure would crush any air out of any honeycombs. You can take a Styrofoam coffee cup, and send it down with a deep sea sample device: when it comes back up, it will be the size of a thimble. The other thing is the bottom of the ocean at a couple of thousand fathoms down is about the most quiescent environment that can be conceived. There is no way things are breaking off of a wreck that deep, and floating up to the surface IMO.

  35. I think the question if the plane might’ve been coated with some kind of anti-fouling paint should be one of the things we could settle fairly quickly.
    However, I don’t think that this question is very important. The flaperon would’ve been coatex, too, but showed distinctive growth after all. And even if the plane had a special coat it wouldn’t explain the empty and clean honeycombs.

  36. You’re a mindless idiot. You shouldn’t say these kind of thing in a total absence of good knowledge. Forensic – what the hell do you know about it, and about the ocean, and about the preferences of barnacles? Stop.

  37. @Jeff

    I think a careful distinction needs to be made relative to where and how biofouling typically occurs. Pelagic species, like the goose barnacles, can colonize an object in the open ocean. Pelagic refers to areas not in the coastal zone, but rather in the open sea where presumably this debris spent the vast majority of its time. My reading suggests that pelagic biofouling may not have occurred relative to the recent Mozambique finds. This debris might not have a shape and stability that would promote the same environment as the flaperon i.e. no part of the object stayed deep enough and stable enough to provide the sustained environment needed for pelagic colonization.

    If the debris washed ashore quickly there would not be enough time for coastal biofouling to have occurred. The condition of the debris may well be typical of what one might expect. For example, the tsunami debris that has been showing up in Hawaii and the Western US has biofouling that took place while the debris (docks, boat,…) was in the coastal waters of Japan. This debris is of concern because it could represent an invasive species not found in local waters. Pelagic biofouling that took place during the debris transit is not of concern since it represents generic species occupying the open ocean,

    I am going to render the opinion that the recent debris finds were not suitable, neither big enough nor stable enough, for pelagic species to colonize it. And they were not in the coastal zone long enough for local species to colonize it. In other words, I am of the opinion that their condition might well be normal and expected given their physical characteristics, and immersion history.

    Flame on.

  38. @dennisW- which way do you think these debris came ashore – from the original modelled impact area or planted recently ? If from the original impact there would be enough time for colonization or minor population in the nooks and crannies as per the debris found at Reunion. There is hardy a quick coming ashore from the original modelled impact area , but maybe if and only if planted. How quick would those debris float across the ocean to Mozambique to avoid colonization – a week ??

  39. TomL

    Background: Avionics. Many years in Malaysia

    Hi Jeff and all. Great discussion group. Following for a long time.
    Liked the Russian excursion. Make a good movie though. Sadly
    maybe a bad ending ?

    Now for something completely different. Left field?
    Don’t want to appear flippant, a lot of people missing.

    1. Malaysia knows where the aircraft is and also another party (Country?).
    Don’t want it found. Using time and muddying the water.
    Salting of bits of metal? Want it to fade away..disappear. MIA.

    2. Maybe if anywhere between the Maldives and Somalia on the East African coast.
    Would not fancy a walk along that bit of beach!

    3. Motive. Would not even try at this point in time.
    But a lot of obfuscatory stuff coming out of KL.
    All comments just a hypothesis.

  40. @Oleksandr. “But in this particular case I am interested in the glue, which was used to attach honeycombs. It shows clear signs of the decay.” The stabiliser part has aluminium (or alloy) honeycomb which might cause a reaction. Possibly a different resin. As you say signs of decay, though detachment stopped with enough sealed honeycomb to keep the whole afloat. It may be there has been no research into the effects of sea water but even if decay did not release biocide it could explain the honeycomb detachment. Still that might have another explanation since it is from the one skin, except where crushed.
    So all this might need to await investigation.
    The part has been reported as in Malaysia still.

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