The Rodrigues Debris Puzzle

Debris map

Above is a graphic made by Caleb Lambert (@CaleLambert), based on an original by Tim Sharpe. It offers a nice visual summary of the five pieces of known or suspected MH370 debris.

Meanwhile, an impressive piece of visual sleuthing has been spotlighted by Ben Sandlands, who’s written up a post about Twitter user @aussie500 and her identification of the likely spot in the cabin from whence the Rodrigues debris came. Below is an image I grabbed from a tweet by Edward Baker (@Edward_767):


While this discovery seems to bring us one step closer to understanding the significance of this find, Edward also raises another observation about the piece that does the opposite. Examining the images posted on Facebook by the Marouk Ebony hotel, he noticed that the images of one side of the piece don’t match those of the other:

Edward Baker 1

He superimposed them, having adjusted the images so that the size of the square holes match:

Edward Baker 2

It’s quite odd. The two sides don’t seem to match very well at all. Perhaps this is due to some trick of perspective or lens distortion? Observations and insights welcome.

UPDATE 4-8-16: This video clarifies the issue quite neatly. Thank you Michael Helms and @Gearo.


204 thoughts on “The Rodrigues Debris Puzzle”

  1. It has also occurred to me this evening that it is potentially silly to look for a single solution that matches all the data points. Why?

    Simply put, if this is a basic cover up attempt, there would be two sets of data out there. 1) the set that was weaving the story we are meant to believe and 2) the data (albeit relatively hidden) that belies the actual truth.

    I.e. we should in that scenario be looking for two stories concurrently that TOGETHER explain the data points.

    Has anyone tried looking at the data set like this before?

  2. Brock/Oleksandr/Littlefoot – getting acoustic data out of DG would be like getting radar data on Mh370 – next to impossible. Sharing that data is even more touchy as you might reveal the capability of your devices and some of them are mobile. But they are all out there listening in and not just to ear splitting episodes like a 200t object obliterating itself in an instant. I mean the more subtle stuff that has to be sorted by gigantic computers. Remember that whale researchers are running out of places to go without getting background noise be it oil rigs or shipping or whatever. If it hit the water someone heard it.

    Dr Duncan as I read him was very careful to subordinate his data below the ISAT data and made sure no one set him up against Inmarsat. It would have been instant controversy. But if he says we can revisit the issue if the BTO’s fall apart then he is saying clearly that a detection from afar is not unrealistic, and this gibes well with my understanding of this technology. What should bother anyone would be the absence of any detection locally – combined – with no debris in the search box. My suspicion is he’s skeptical about a high energy event in the search box but there would be a storm if he said it.

  3. Littlefoot,

    You said: “The BTOs cannot be reconciled with the boom, even if it was caused by an implosion below the surface rather than a sound generated by a plane crashing onto the surface of the ocean.”

    Why not? So far I did not hear any argument against 100E: intersection of “HA01-RCS-based-curve” and the 7th arc.

  4. Another fairy tale is an implosion of the airplane pressure cabin or the wings.

    Airplane pressure cabins are not designed for negative pressure differential. Therefore all pressure cabins are required to have a negative pressure valve, which opens automatically whenever the outside pressure is slightly greater than the inside pressure. That happened during AF447 when the outside pressure increased faster than the inside pressure due to the high rate of descent. If anyone thinks that a negative pressure differential could develop if the airplane sinks rapidly (why would it when filled with air?), then consider the passenger entry doors. These are so-called plug-type, which means that they are designed so that the inside pressure pushes the door outwards against the door frame. A negative pressure differential pushes the doors inwards, and there is only the door mechanism to resist that pressure.

    All fuel tanks are ventilated to outside and will slowly fill with water as the airplane or wing descends. If the descent of an undamaged wing was rapid (why would it?) then I think the wing would be gradually crushed instead of suddenly imploding.

  5. Paul and others, who compare seabed and surface impacts.

    Take a hammer. Hit a pillow. Drop the hammer into a bathtub full of water. Go outside and hit a big stone, rock or concrete wall. To make it more impressive, exciting and challenging go to a railway station and knock rails.

    After these experiments, you will certainly understand the difference between the sound produced by seabed and water surface impacts.

  6. Just a quick note from a long-time journalist and news director (now TV consultant mostly outside the USA) that I continue to appreciate your Flight 370 disappearance work. I well remember your CNN on-set appearances during the mania immediately following the disappearance. I am an old friend and colleague of Miles O’Brien who also did a first-rate job. I just started to read the “New York” website and stumbled on to a 2015 story you did, etc. etc. Your work has been invaluable.
    Best regards,
    Robert M Yuna

  7. Gysbreght,

    I believe Littlefoot did not mean implosion due to pressure differential, but rather process of collapsing upon the impact. Or not?

  8. Meaning of “Implosion” from Merriam-Webster:

    1. the inrush of air in forming a suction stop
    2. the action of imploding
    3. the act or action of bringing to or as if to a center

  9. @Crobbie
    ya, its really difficult to fight in case of deeply pushed nonsenses, and there are different motivations, but mostly money or some kind of power (no, I dont mean all the big governments now, as consipracist do); may be, sometimes, some AI will be able to neturally judge, without any kind of bias or wish; but even AI must be trained somehow; just ideas

  10. @littlefoot, Matty, Brock, Oleksandr
    littlefoot said “The most likely location where the sound from the Curtin boom originated from is West from the Maldives and not on the 7th arc!” This is definitely the impression I got from reading Dr Duncan’s papers. Also, I agree with you that the plane sighted over the Maldives and a crash at the Curtin boom location cannot both have been MH370. We have been over this extensively before and without further evidence it does not seem worthwhile to repeat the discussion.
    Matty said “What should bother anyone would be the absence of any detection locally – combined – with no debris in the search box.” Yes, well said. And no result so far in the underwater search and the dodgyness of the debris found and the absence of debris on WA shore. Sigh.

  11. @Olexandr, you said:
    “… After presenting my argument in-debths and began asking questions, Dr. Duncan stopped responding to me”.
    I wonder, why 😉

  12. @AM2,
    Agreed, we have covered this terrain before extensively and there’s no new reason to go over it again. It’s a pity that the two events – the boom and the sighting – are inextricably linked in the public mind, due to the closeness of the locations. And most don’t bother to check if the times are compatible.

  13. @Gysbreght: Yes, that is a very good point. Even though the doors ultimately translate to the outside, they are fundamentally designed to withstand pressure from inside to outside.

    So basically, in a controlled flight input scenario, the aft end would be coming down first; then, if the right wing was hit by a swell first thing, and got sucked under, the front portion of the fuselage would be (a) tilted up; and (b) tilted hard to the right.

    THen the wing would basically function as the handle on a hammer, slamming the right, front section of the fuselage against the water. Considering what you say, that the doors do in fact move inboard first, all that’s preventing the implosion is the latch mechanisms/hinges, rather than the doubly reinforced fuselage…

    As for door numberings, the diagram I saw labeled them 1, 2, … 8 from front to back, and left to right, so all even numbers are on the right side, and the odds are pax doors. So we are talking about the same door, just different nomenclature. Not sure what the official version is.

  14. @Robert Yuna, Thanks so much! It was great working with Miles on the NOVA doc, he really knows his stuff and is a talented storyteller. We’ve talked about working together on another project and maybe one of these days we will…

  15. @OZ,

    I’m familiar with the report, but not sure what you’re trying to say. The A320 impacted wings level, attitude 9.5 degrees nose-up, vertical speed -750 ft/min.

    In the ATSB’s low bank angle, descending left turn the attitude would be nose-down.

  16. AM2/Littlefoot/Brock – There is a Submarine base right here(Stirling), and my brother was chatting to a former Sub Commander he knows quite well a while ago and he says they always used some local seabed features here to sneak away from the base whenever they left port. Apparently that is the time you are most likely to be shadowed by someone else’s sub. That said, it looks a certainty that there is ongoing acoustic monitoring going on here, particularly as there are often visiting US subs tied up at Stirling base. Indications are that they didn’t detect anything in the search area either. You may recall that both the Royal Australian Navy and the US Navy were present for the underwater ping debacle a thousand miles to the north? At that point both navies were involved in what was an active SAR and it’s inconceivable that they would be drawn away if they had intel pointing to a crash where they are now looking. These two navies operate together a lot and share a lot of military intel especially in this region. So the CTBTO, CMST, and the RAN-USN did not detect anything acoustically in the search area. No debris in the box, and no debris on the Australian coast.

  17. There’s been some talk about the Lido radar plot lately, so you’ll pardon me if I throw in my own monkeywrench:

    There’s that one oddball plot that’s way off to the right; in the beginning some people were taking that as evidence of a sort of juking maneuver. At the time I calculated that it would take 75+ degree bank angle to do it, but that the overbank protection would kick in at 30-some degrees to prevent that.

    I’ve since found out that the overbank protection can be easily overridden by the pilot simply by pressing harder on the controls. At such bank angles, you’re approaching 5-g’s, but that’s still (barely) within what is physiologically possible.

    Alternatively, if you wanted to lose a lot of altitude in a big hurry while remaining on the same track, such a banking maneuver combined with a dive would not pull 5-g’s and would avoid the negative g’s that would be associated with simply pushing the nose down.

    Or it could be that the bearings generated by primary radars are not very accurate all the time.

  18. Warren,

    “At such bank angles, you’re approaching 5-g’s, but that’s still (barely) within what is physiologically possible.”

    You need to consider also what the airplane structure is physically capable of, and what the wing is aerodynamically capable of.

  19. @Warren

    That’s some monkeywrench! I’m with Gysbreght on that one.

    This is a sedate, respectable B777, not an F15E.

    It was picked up on primary radar, but not considered a threat. To be not considered a threat was exactly what the guy in the left hand seat was banking on (if you pardon the pun)

    Flying at above normal B777 cruising speed until out of radar range, flying along FIR boundary etc was obviously (to me) carefully planned in advance, and it did the trick.

  20. @Matty – A year ago, I wrote that it might have been possible that the acoustic pings around S21 were detected by a submarine (possibly from the UK). The sub then notified the ATSB. However, that submarine didn’t want the ATSB to publicize the sub’s location so the ATSB was required to fabricate a reason for moving the search location to S21. The ATSB then announced that a speed change early in the flight indicated a higher fuel burn that reduced the range so they had to move 1000 miles to the northeast. Brock reminds us that this reason doesn’t make sense but I’m not sure if the ATSB ever admitted to the error.

  21. @Lauren H
    Correct, in as much as a UK sub was involved in the very early days. It soon went on to report back (within 2-3 days) “nothing heard” despite the fact that the Chinese were leaping up and down (with an amateur hand-held hydrophone) claiming otherwise. Hand-held or +60 years experience of Cold War experience?
    These acoustic authorities of the day (they did define the technology) stated the “pings” heard were not correct in frequence nor frequency. One of the few professional voices heard during this event. So let us “stick to your knitting” and focus on WHY people got distracted in those early days, please ……….

  22. @Lauren H

    The ATSB 26 june 2014 report (Appendix A) mentions different reasons for moving the search to S4/S5 region. The primary one mentioned (second bullet point):
    ” The aircraft passed close to a NW point at 1912. ”
    The higher fuel burn is not mentioned there.

  23. @Lauren

    If I may just chip in here.

    HMS Tireless was the submarine. The Royal Navy never disclose locations of their submarines.

  24. @all
    Forgive my ignorance in advance … I did take the effort to trawl back through 2 years of posting without finding the reference – so please point me to the relevant posting:
    re: correlation between local Maldives “sighting” of airliner with similar markings at 0615 (local- is that 0:15 UTC?) and “acoustic boom” recorded and plotted (in direction and time) by Australian (WA) University team at 00:35UTC). These 2 independent observations could be considered much more important than the tainted evidence from our current “official sources”. Yes/ No? Your postings suggest the event are not related – why?
    After having followed this event for 2 years I’d much rather trust the word of the local Maldives than KL.

    On a similar note – we have a wealth of Ocean drift experts around? Can anyone show the most simple pattern of (debris) landing sites matching the “acoustic boom”? It ought to be a lot easier, right?
    I ask because nothing had turned up on Australia shores ….

  25. @Warren

    Interesting. Re the Germanwings crash: I had heard about the apparent practice run on the flight out

    Slight diversion here-It reminded me if the Moorgate tube disaster, London 1974 or 1975.
    The driver apparently committed suicide (taking 50 plus passengers with him)when he failed to stop at Moorgate platform but ploughed into the end of the tunnel at full speed. Turns out that he had been practicing overruns for some weeks in advance.

    Apologies to everyone for my rambling story.

  26. I am amazed that there has not been a re-thinking of the data analysis from the satellite communications pings with MH370. We have all kinds of data that support the conclusion that the data analysis of the “pings” is completely wrong. I am sure the data is telling us something. Something different than the current conclusions. Something very important.

    We have debris in the North Western area of the Indian Ocean. Lots of debris. More and more found each month. Some has been in the water a long time. Specific types of sea life that lives only in very warm water are attached to some. Suggesting a long travel time or a long time in very warm water. Other parts show little if any sea life attached. Suggesting a short travel time in water and a long time on the beach. We have estimates that there might have been 10,000 pieces of debris from an aircraft impacting the ocean with the force to dislodge pieces of aircraft into such small pieces. We have no debris from the Southern Indian Ocean. Non what so ever. We have no evidence of a wreck at the bottom of the sea. Thus; We are looking in the wrong place.

    We have possible sightings of the aircraft over the Maldives. Timing of the sightings is right. Sea currents would carry debris from the Maldives area to where debris is being found. We have radar data that shows the aircraft was headed west toward the Maldives when last seen on Radar.

    The MH370 aircraft antenna that was used for satellite communications was an old style 777 stick antenna versus the modern array antenna on newer 777’s. The stick antenna has a donut shape reception plot. It loses signal strength as the satellite is closer to directly overhead versus on the horizon. The new array antenna is the opposite. It gains strength as the satellite moves overhead. Thus the closer the 777 with the stick antenna flies to the upper middle part of the Indian Ocean, just south of the Maldives, where the satellite is located overhead, the lower the signal. The opposite what current 777 aircraft experience.

    If signal gain circuits are involved in the transition or reception of the ping signal; then a delay would be imparted on the timing of the signal reception. If the signal is run through the gain circuits many times as the signal strength drops then the delay become progressively longer. This long and long timing delay would be possibly represented as bands of position on the Indian Ocean getting further and further away from the Satellite. Just as calculated by the “Experts”.

    I think the aircraft continued West with no diversion South.

    We need to look at islands closer to the Maldives for debris. Map the debris cone and back track to an up current location. We need to analyze the satellite data with the assumption that the data is delayed due to circuit design and not airplane movement; and try to locate the aircraft based on a new analysis. We need to accept the Maldives sightings and plot the direction of the aircraft. We then need to look for the aircraft in a position consistent with all the new data.

    Ken Goodwin Retired Engineering Manager, Boeing

  27. @Ken Goodwin, We try to be welcoming here to new voices, but everything you said is factually wrong and so not really helpful.

  28. Hi all – I’m a casual, but still very interested, onlooker and I’m afraid some of your discussions are beyond my little brain’s ability lol. If some of you could weigh in on a more simple question I would appreciate it (thank you in advance for going easy on me :)))

    I was looking at the few pieces of debris that have been found and started to wonder if the plane has just been too destroyed, and is in too many bits and pieces scattered all over the place that that is the reason it cannot be found. For example there was another comment on this site suggesting 10,000 or more pieces might be out there. Could a great portion of the plane and debris have been burned up and is either unrecognizable or just gone, and then the rest now just too scattered to be noticed?

    Do you think it is possible that that is the reason it can’t be found, and we’ll never get the black box? I don’t know how capable that search vessel is for finding little bits and pieces.

    thank you for your comments, all of you are very insightful and I learn a lot from you.

  29. @GortoZ – If I remember it correctly, in addition to the hand-held detector on the Chinese RIB, they also had a pinger. The sensor on the pinger is so sensitive it would turn it on if it were placed on a moist paper towel. I suspect they detected their own pinger.

  30. @Ken Goodwin

    The ISAT data is just fine. It has gotten a bad rap solely because the IG and ATSB have appended a great deal of guesswork to its interpretation. The guesswork is the form of flight dynamic assumptions. No doubt if the aircraft was flown in anything resembling a “normal” manner, the current search area is a very good place to be looking. Of course, if the plane had been flown in a normal manner it would have landed as scheduled in Beijing. So while these assumptions are not horrible, I believe that the impact the assumptions have on the terminus has been understated by all the mainstream analysts.

    I particularly like the 19:40 BFO/BTO data. At this point in time the satellite was virtually standing still. The Doppler associated with satellite motion was nil with respect to the ground station as well as the aircraft. The Doppler residual at this time was due to the difference between the actual Doppler between the aircraft and the satellite and the Doppler compensation performed by the AES which assumes a satellite position over the equator. A number of Doppler contributions are removed from the calculation at this point. It is very clear (unambiguous) that the aircraft was flying close to South at this time at a speed of 400knots+. Deviations from a 180 heading would require higher speeds to produce the observed Doppler. There can be no other reasonable conclusion unless the ISAT was spoofed. This conclusion is completely at odds with any notion of a Maldives or Bay of Bengal flight path. The physics simply cannot support those paths.

    The login at 18:xx is also very important. It tells us that the aircraft flew almost directly West from AGARI. Forget the radar data. This had to be in order to get to the 18:25 ping ring on time. While I think the radar data is interesting and supports the flight West, I am not going to waste my time with it. It is basically garbage in the form we have it.

    Troubling, of course, is what caused the login at 18:xx. It has never been explained, and remains a potentially very important missing part of this puzzle.

    After 19:40 the plane could have taken many different paths to arrive at the final ring. I won’t belabor this post with my opinions except to say they are all far to the North of the current search area.

  31. @Ken Goodwin, @Jeffwise

    Ken: Further to Jeff’s comment, you wrote:

    1. “The MH370 aircraft antenna that was used for satellite communications was an old style 777 stick antenna versus the modern array antenna on newer 777’s. ” This is complete nonsense. The Inmarsat system has never used “stick antennas” (vertically polarized). The system has always used circularly polarized antennas (RHC). Moreover, 9M-MRO used the HGA system manufactured by Ball, a pair of phased array antennas easily observed in the many photos online. So that statement is 100% false.

    2. “…then a delay would be imparted on the timing of the signal reception.” The propagation delay internal to the AES is negligible compared to the free space propagation delay, thus not a factor.

  32. @ALSM, does the a/c only have HGA antennae that need to be pointed in roughly the right direction, or LGA too? As for the lower gain signal on logins ~1830 and 0019 as compared to other transmissions (per Ashton et al), what, if anything, should be gleaned from that?

  33. @ROB (and ALSM): have you seen this one:

    “Commissioned aerospace technical expert Francois Grangier … felt that the way the [flaperon] was “twisted” led him to think of a ditching rather than a crash, which would indicate that the aircraft was under control until the end.”

    Thanks to @luigi_warren for pointing that out to me (Lauren H did link to it on Sep 4).

  34. @Billy

    This is my personal take on the subject.

    Most of the wreckage is still lying on the seabed, I think we’re all agreed on that.

    If it had been smashed into thousands of bits, then we would now (bearing in mind this is 2 years later) have either (1) our hands on a mass of debris from various parts of the plane, or (2) nothing at all.

    The fact that we have neither (1) nor (2), but instead have a few pieces that are all (except perhaps for the panel from Rodrigues, which is currently open to debate) consistent with having been knocked off as the plane being deliberately glided into the water. Personally, I believe these pieces all came from MH370, however not everyone does.

    The black boxes are still on the seabed.

  35. @ROB: the Rodrigues panel (which is directly adjacent to the right hand side #2 door), taken together with the other debris objects (that all come from the right side, with possible exception of the Rolls Royce object), actually constitutes confirmation that the aircraft was under control until the end. Gotta keep the story straight! 😉

  36. @ROB, You wrote, “Most of the wreckage is still lying on the seabed, I think we’re all agreed on that.” No, we’re not all agreed on that.

  37. Lauren H – what you say is very plausible going by the the way the search got jerked around, and sub locations is always restricted info. They all packed up and headed north. Then south – either guesswork or a tip-off.

  38. @Warren,

    “the Rodrigues panel (which is directly adjacent to the right hand side #2 door), taken together with the other debris objects (that all come from the right side, ”

    You seem to ignore that the origin of Rodrigues panel could equally have been the lavatory on the left hand side near door #3L.

  39. Warren wrote ”actually constitutes confirmation that the aircraft was under control until the end.”

    Under control with empty fuel tanks ?

  40. Paul Smithson: Yes, there is also a LGA, but that is not relevant to the point I was making about Ken’s erroneous statements. Ken said there was a “stick antenna” (a vertical) and no phased array. Both statements are false.

    As for Ashton et. al., I found no reference to a logon using the LGA at any time. Do you have a specific reference?

  41. @Jeff

    That’s ok, you are entitled to your opinion.
    It’s what makes this blog so interesting, and followed by so many.

    If Billy continues to read the blog, hopefully he will come to appreciate how contentious the subject continues to be.

  42. @ir1907,

    “Under control with empty fuel tanks ?”

    Yes, the airplane is entirely controllable with both engines out, read the reports on the Hudson ditching and the Gimli glider, or the FCOM.

  43. ir1907 – I think it’s understood not everyone is on board with Kazakhstan, but back to the substance of this thread – why do we have two bits of debris when only one was found? The other looks like some sort of duplicate. A hotel guest?

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