About the New MH370 Search — UPDATED

The Economist has just published an article about Ocean Infinity with the headline: “A fantastical ship has set out to seek Malaysian Airlines flight 370.” The piece reports that “Contracts have yet to be signed, but Oliver Plunkett, Ocean Infinity’s boss, has decided to go ahead anyway…”

I was emailing earlier today with Mark Antelme of Celicourt Communications, who handles public relations for Ocean Infinity, and he says that “without a contract we’re not going to conduct a search. That said, we are very hopeful of the contract being awarded soon (which is why the vessel is where it is).”

UPDATE 1/12: I don’t like to substantially change a piece after I put it up, and don’t think I have done so before, because it feels like rewriting history, but in this case I have heavily revised this piece to reflect the fact that most of my concerns about the Economist piece were either fixed or were rendered moot by subsequent events, and leaving it up in its original form was causing psychic trauma for the author of the Economist piece, Hal Hodson. Whether or not Ocean Infinity was sincere about its claim that it would carry out the search without a contract, the contract has been signed, and so the road to a second seabed search is open.

I still take issue with the with this final sentence:

“As the oceans are watched with ever closer scrutiny, from space and the depths, it is increasingly difficult for anything to get lost in the first place.”

It’s important that the world not overlook the fact  that things are vanishing without a trace at an accelerating pace. In 2016, an Antonov An-32 belonging to the Indian Air Force disappeared over the Bay of Bengal; less than two months ago, the Argentinian sub San Juan went missing during a training exercise. We should perhaps try to figure out what made these things happen before getting too smug about them not happening again.

UPDATE 1/2: Shortly after I posted the above, the ship headed out to sea and  is currently (21:49 GMT, 2 Jan 2018) on a heading of 147. I’ll seek clarification from Mark Antelme about the discrepancy between what he told me and what Plunkett apparently told the Economist.

I’d like to add that I also take exception to this statement:

“Seabed Constructor is the most advanced civilian survey vessel on the planet today. If its array of technology cannot find MH370, then it is likely that nothing will, and that the mystery of MH370 may never be solved.”

If Seabed Constructor looks for the plane in the designated search area and fails to find it, that will be due to the fact that the plane is not in the designated search area, not because the technology is lacking in some way. Indeed, as I’ve written in earlier posts, there are many good reasons to doubt that the designated search area is correct.

UPDATE 2: I’ve just heard back from Mark Antelme. Regarding the Economist quote, “Contracts have yet to be signed, but Oliver Plunkett, Ocean Infinity’s boss, has decided to go ahead anyway…” he writes, “…in getting the vessel in position… is how it should be read. I think that’s consistent with our exchange.”

In other words, the company is clearly signaling that it will NOT conduct the seabed search until it has the contract nailed down with Malaysia. However, it apparently is going to position the ship so that it can be in place in the event that that happens.

This makes sense from the perspective of wanting to make the most of a limited search season, but it would seem a rather terrible strategy from a negotiating perspective. Leasing the ship and crew and getting it into position means an outlay of a significant amount of money, so by the time they arrive on station the company will have a strong incentive not to walk away from the table, no matter what terms Malaysia offers.

Of course, all of this is academic if the airplane is not in the search area, since in that case Ocean Infinity would not get paid anyway. An analysis conducted by Australian scientists during the official seabed search calculated that there was effectively a zero percent chance that the plane could have come to rest where the planned search is going to focus.

UPDATE 3: [3 Jan 2018, 10:00 GMT] The Economist’s story has escaped into the broader media ecosystem, with a number of mainstream publications, including The Guardian, picking up a story by the Australian Associated Press which states that “the search for MH370 is back on with the ship Seabed Constructor sailing from Durban today for the search area.” Perth Now has its own story. Both seem to be repeating the Economist’s claim without having done any additional reporting.

A check of Marine Traffic shows that Seabed Constructor has spent the last nine hours holding position 30 nautical miles off the coast of South Africa.

Since I’ve identified a number of inaccuracies in the original article, let me restate what is the core issue here. A lot of people have been waiting a long time for Ocean Infinity to sign the contract with Malaysia and officially restart the search. The Economist is reporting that both of these things have happened. Ocean Infinity’s spokesman tells me that they have not.

Indeed, I find it hard to believe that either of these things could have happened without either Ocean Infinity or the Malaysian government releasing a statement.

Thus, the Economist has reported a major development that appears not to have occurred.





249 thoughts on “About the New MH370 Search — UPDATED”

  1. “The plan is for Ocean Infinity’s search to be paid for, on a “no find, no fee” basis, by Malaysia alone. Contracts have yet to be signed, but Oliver Plunkett, Ocean Infinity’s boss, has decided to go ahead anyway, to take advantage of the window of good weather that opens in the southern Indian Ocean in January and February”

    I would stick with what the Spokesperson said Jeff. “Oliver Plunkett has decided to go ahead anyway” wonder where the Economist got that quote from? Surely if Oliver said that himself they would have said so. The spokesperson is obviously saying otherwise. I posted a recent update from OI stating that the final 2 AUVs had been FAT tested & were being loaded onto SeaBed Constructor towards the end of 2017. Just because it has left port doesn’t necessarily mean it is heading straight to the search area. Could it just be doing final testing?

  2. @Michael John, I think you’re right. At the moment (5.52pm Eastern Time, 22:52 GMT) it’s on a heading of 150, which is too southerly for a course straight to the search area. I’ll be keeping an eye on this.

  3. Hello Jeff. I wrote this piece based on spending two days on board the ship in Durban, talking to crew and execs including Oliver. I’m not clear why you think your emails to a PR man are a better source?

  4. With a couple of minor technical errors, The Economist article is accurate. The author was in Durban over the last few days, interviewing OI staff. He had the *planned* departure time correct. SC actually left the dock slightly later at 20:32 and cleared the harbor entrance at 21:08.

    SC is currently heading about 37 degrees east of the great circle route to the 7th arc (~113 deg), probably for some deep water testing of the 2 new Hugin’s.

  5. @Hal Hodson, I appreciate your reaching out, and am glad you did. There’s an important discrepancy here and I believe we can iron it out. Simply put, is Ocean Infinity going to search without a contract in place, or not? Antelme is saying, quite unequivocally it seems to me, that they will not. In your piece Plunkett seems to be saying the reverse. So the company is putting out contradictory signals. What do you make of this?

    I’d love to hear your take on some other points as well, including:
    — Who do you think is funding this effort, and how much do you think it will cost? There seems to be a real shroud of mystery over this endeavor, though perhaps having spent time with them you don’t feel that way.
    — Did you get a sense of how likely it is that they’ll find the plane? To what extent will they search the ATSB’s defined 25,000 sq km area and to what extent will they look beyond it?
    — What is going on with the contract negotiations with Malaysia? This has been going on for months, which seems odd, given that Ocean Infinity is offering to shoulder an enormous amount of risk. Do you have a sense of what the sticking points are, and whether they are resolvable?


    @airlandseaman, You mean west.

  6. Automation at Depth: Ocean Infinity and seabed mapping using multiple AUVs
    Ocean Infinity’s seabed mapping campaign commenced in the summer of 2017. The Ocean
    Infinity team is made up of individuals from multiple disciplines, who’ve gained vast
    experience with deep sea exploration operations in the past. Their combined knowledge and
    insight led to formation of the idea to undertake deep sea mapping operations using up to
    eight Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs), paired with eight Unmanned Surface Vessels
    (USVs). Within this article this novel concept is explained in more detail.
    Ocean Exploration
    Human inquisition drives us to explore. This has led man to delve below the surface of the
    oceans. Our ability to understand the undersea world has continually progressed, driven in
    part by technological developments. Early attempts of pearl divers, for example, to fashion
    primitive goggles, had profound consequences in demystifying the world which lies beneath
    the waves. For the hydrographic surveyor, comparable advances can be seen, in progressions
    from lead line soundings, to the first echosounders, and onto swath sonar systems. The field
    of vision for the surveyor has been widened through using modern high resolution mapping
    technologies. Yet despite advances in physical sensors, our choice of survey platform has
    limited our ability to map the deep oceans. Due to the physical properties of seawater, and
    the associated propagation and attenuation of sound within the water column, limitations
    are imposed on surveys undertaken using hull mounted sensors on surface vessels. The
    advent of tethered submersible survey platforms such as ROVs and towfish have reduced the
    distance between sonar head and seabed, however to make further progress in mapping the
    undersea world we need to mirror characteristics of the fish who have evolved effectively to
    navigate this aquatic environment. We have come closer to this in adopting the AUV as a
    survey platform.
    Figure 1: Widened Field of Vision – image acquired during a recent Ocean Infinity project
    AUV Shoaling
    Until relatively recently AUV surveys have involved one vessel and one AUV. This mode of
    operation is resource intensive and imposes clear limitations on our ability to map extensive
    ocean areas far from the coast. In contrast many species of fish swim in shoals and as a result
    expand the field of vision of the group beyond that of the individual, enhancing their collective
    ability to spot predators or food. Ocean Infinity have applied this principle to AUV surveys by
    assembling a fleet of AUVs, all of which are deployed from a single Host Surface Vessel (HSV).
    By pairing the AUVs with USVs, their operational range can be extended even further. Each AUV communicates with a USV via a through water HiPAP sonar system. Whilst the USVs
    communicate with the HSV via radio links.
    Survey Platform
    Multiple Kongsberg HUGIN AUVs are used in this mission, each has a 6000m depth limit and
    is equipped with Side Scan Sonar, Multi-beam echosounder, Sub-Bottom Profiler (SBP),
    magnetometer, CTD, and HD camera (CathX Ocean still), and optional turbidity, methane and
    CathX laser sensors.
    Figure 2: HUGIN AUVs in the hanger on Seabed Constructor
    Project Start-up
    One year ago this ambitious operation was just a vision, now it is a reality. Today surveys are
    being undertaken far from the coast using a shoal of six AUVs. Taking the plan from the
    drawing board to the ocean was not, however, simple. Many challenges and hurdles had to
    be overcome along the way. The Ocean Infinity solution is complex requiring a wide range of
    skills, the expertise of multiple organisations, and necessitated constant focus, energy and
    teamwork, as plans frequently needed to be rethought and timelines re-evaluated.
    Ocean Infinity was launched at a time of low market activity in the subsea sector. It is believed
    the lull in market activity provided the perfect opportunity to bring together a team of experts
    with proven experience in this field. For example, whilst many companies have been making
    redundancies, Ocean Infinity’s key partner Swire Seabed has formed a new survey office in
    Constant development and re-evaluation permeate not only the technology but the approach
    to the whole business, so has extended beyond mobilisation into the early subsea missions. Much of the technology used and processes employed are original, so have needed to be
    improved, enhanced or augmented. If we consider the crew numbers required to man a single
    AUV survey operation, it was not feasible to multiply these numbers by six or eight. Therefore,
    we have been required to optimise performance and incorporate a high level of automation
    within each stage of our workflows. The larger scale of the operations Ocean Infinity is
    undertaking (i.e. surveying of extensive areas of seabed) has helped make application of these
    automated processes possible. One particular area where high levels of automation has been
    implemented is within optimisation of data processing tasks.
    Figure 3: The Seabed Constructor back deck with USVs
    Automation of Data Processing
    Ocean Infinity have been working closely with our software suppliers in creating new
    automated routines for processing the vast amounts of data generated by our fleet of AUVs.
    This process commenced long before equipment mobilisation and we entered dialogue with
    multiple software suppliers at an early phase of the project’s inception. We have benefitted
    from research and development undertaken in tandem, between our data processors and
    technicians of EIVA, IXblue, ESRI/Geodata, and CathX. Extensive work has been undertaken,
    in collaboration with EIVA, in developing a Work Flow Manager system, which automates
    processing steps undertaken on data which is downloaded from the AUVs, and removes the
    requirement to complete as many manual logs. The user interface developed incorporates a
    crawler function which alerts processors to when folders are ready for use (see figure 4).
    IXblue have enabled processing steps undertaken on geological data to be optimised, this is
    essential as, even though the team of geologists on board has been expanded beyond what
    is common for single AUV operations, the extensive data volumes necessitate
    implementation of new techniques. Following preliminary processing phases raster deliverables are generated onboard, steps to achieve this have also been optimised within
    ArcGIS; our GIS supplier Geodata have developed scripts in line with our requirements, to
    automate GIS processes. We are also drawing on their Geocap extension for dealing with SBP
    data in our GIS. The goal of these steps, is to increase reliability and to reduce the number of
    man-hours required to prepare data offshore. Yet, with so many novel processes underway,
    it is easy for an outsider approaching the project for the first time, to be overwhelmed by its
    apparent complexity.
    Figure 4: EIVA Workflow Manager
    Data Management
    Operations involving up to eight AUVs with a heavy payload of sensors, generate substantial
    amounts of data. Over time we are looking at the data acquired and transferred onshore,
    quickly becoming ‘Big Data’. Given this consideration is required of how this data will be
    managed and presented. The current plan is for data processing and preparation to mainly
    be undertaken on the vessel. Deliveries transferred onshore take the form of standard raster
    files (in .Tiff format), with associated vector background/meta data (supplied in SSDM
    format). The server system offshore operates in the form of an onboard Cloud, with each data
    processor using a virtual PC. This enables us to benefit from enhanced processing
    performance, made possible through distributing tasks over multiple virtual machines. The
    data, once transferred onshore from the vessel, is being uploaded to the Cloud. This data is
    then made available to users and clients, using an ArcGIS Enterprise solution. This solution
    makes possible a new generation of deliverables, where clients no longer need to rely on data
    transfers using physical drives, but can view and download data via web applications. This can
    also potentially enable users to incorporate data deliverables into their own applications
    using Web Map Services (WMS) or Web Feature Services (WFS). In this we are looking to
    future proof our data deliveries, moving beyond the era of traditional paper charts, to
    geospatial data supplied directly to the user, potentially wirelessly, over the internet.

  7. Pulled that off the internet. It finishes with this:

    The Future
    Ocean Infinity is only at the start of its journey of seabed exploration. The technology and
    processes outlined above are currently among the most advanced available, however
    technology in this field is continually evolving, so an ongoing process of research and
    development is underway to ensure that new developments are incorporated within the
    Ocean Infinity solution. In December 2017, we plan to install the next addition to the survey
    spread, an EM302 hull mounted deep water MBES. This will enable us to carry out essential
    recognisance surveys of unknown areas prior to deploying the AUVs. One natural
    consequence of mapping such deep, remote regions of the ocean, is that there is lack of
    available datasets which we can use for planning purposes. This fact also adds to justification
    for such an endeavour as Ocean Infinity is embarking on. Our initial focus is wide scale survey
    and mapping of deep ocean areas, alongside inspection and recovery. Through experience
    gained so far, the application of this advanced survey spread to other task within the subsea
    industry has become apparent. So, our future plans involve furthering developments, to
    enable multiple AUV operations to be applied more widely.

    So am I right in assuming that the search for Mh370 is justified by the fact OI needs to test out this new concept? If it finds Mh370 in the process then it is a big win all round. Even if Mh370 isn’t found OI will have gained world wide publicity into it’s New concept & hopefully the search will (either with or without Mh370 being found) be still beneficial to OI through the concepts success. That way it would explain OIs attitude to commencing a search without waiting for agreement from Malaysia for a finder’s fee. But if no agreement is made them will OI (If it locates Mh370) keep that information to itself?

  8. @Michael John, It’s a big gamble. This expedition is going to cost someone a fortune, and the worst place to test an unproven technology is in the middle of a remote ocean where the nearest spare parts are a two-week sail away. Everything is going to have to line up perfectly–and that’s assuming the plane is even there. As I asked Hal, what analysis has OI done into that question?

  9. @all It seems the OI’s motivations and actions would make a lot more sense if they know (believe) that there is valuable salvageable cargo at the site. A contract with Malaysia would be potential frosting on the potential cake.

  10. @Shadynuk
    Are you thinking all those tons of mangosteens were not mangosteens, but something else ?

  11. No need to speculate. OI is not motivated by “…valuable salvageable cargo…”. They are motivated by the fact that so many people want to find this plane, they (uniquely) have bleeding edge technology that can help now, they have the financial resources to search on their own if necessary, and if they do find it, they will enjoy the PR and marketing benefits.

  12. Quote: (To what extent will they search the ATSB’s defined 25,000 sq km area and to what extent will they look beyond it?)
    This is my biggest question, and probably what has been delaying the contract. What idiot would sign a contract restricting where they are ‘permitted’ to search? In’maintain’that “Malaysia DOES NOT want MH370 found!” Neither do their partners in Crime from China. I believe they KNOW what happened to MH370 and why…and they felt relieved that it conveniently disappeared and they were not prosecuted for carrying dangerous illegal cargo on civilian flights (again).
    We flew to Malaysia on Holiday the week after MH370 dissappeared and they were thouroghly interrogating all boarding passengers and asking if anyone had any kind of batteries in their travel bags.

  13. Robert MacFarland: Why would you even suggest that OI might be restricted where they search? That’s never been an issue. They are searching the CSIRO area first as a courtesy to the ATSB, who has been very helpful in the planning. Besides, S35 is the first area to be reached from Durban, and 370 may be there.

  14. Airlandseaman, I am not sure about salvage law, but I am assuming, without a contract, MH370 will be the property of whoever finds it. I believe Malaysia wants to be in control of recovery of the plane and in control of what is discovered from evidence investigating the cause of it’s demise. They have no regard for safety of passengers and habitually carry dangerous cargo on passenger flights. https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/chinese-firm-ordered-to-pay-65m-over-chemical-damaged-mas-220107/

  15. @Laura

    Those numbers (A$90M and 90 days, go back to a previous publication by abc.net.au.


    They are bogus.

    First of all, why associate a time limit with the reward payment? Secondly, the amount is completely skewed relative to cost. I estimate a search cost of A$7M per month at the outside based on the Fugro payments. I doubt OI’s costs per unit time will be grossly different than Fugro’s (Higher efficiency, yes. Operating cost per unit time, probably similar).

  16. looking at marinetraffic, it shows SC as “ristricted manoevrability, making tags at sea and its route forecast is shown as going around OZ to Perth.
    Could they be right now doing trials with the sonar kit? Why go all the way around OZ to get to destination and not as suggested direct to the search area?

    I have suggested before that OI may have a “another” client asking them to find something/recover it. The Contract with Malaysia could be a bonus ontop of the first “already in place contract”. Hence the no cure no pay. Appreciate the publicity point, not denying that.
    Future will maybe tell if correct. That is if we ever findout, which is unlikely IMO.
    see map here from 11.00 hrs CET: https://www.dropbox.com/s/bzkr7xk12tlnz5v/SC%20path%202.jpg?dl=0

  17. @DennisW

    Thanks for the link I must have missed that. As it’s all over the internet today, old stories are getting re hashed.

    It really didn’t make sense to me either to put a time limit on the search.


    Looking at that track for SC, it does seem odd. Could they be searching for debris that may have drifted? Maybe a silly question but I know nothing about drift patters.

    I personally have never believed that Mh370 went into the sio. So agree that OI may be on another mission.

  18. Laura, would not think they search for debris. Considering they took the sonars/ROV’s onboard in Durban, I would bet on seatrials of the that kit. Should thye discover problems with it, they have a much shorter distance to shore (Durban) for repairs compared to Perth and the SIO search area.

    They have gone over the past few hours from 0.1 kn to 6.3 kn/hr and still have restricted manoeverability on their vessel. Signal for others ships to steeraway and beaware they cannot manoevre.

  19. I rather think this was OI’s intention all the time. The trials in the Atlantic just have been rehearsals.
    They are in the stage of testing and marketing their new technology. Any endavour on this scale with new technologies would take huge amounts of investments before any pay-off can be guaranteed.

    The new MH370 search area is not the WORST possible area to prove their capabilities but the BEST possible area.

    For OI it will be a win-win endavour whatever the outcome unless their technology fails obviously in the process. They don’t need a contract with Malaysia. Surely not one which would restrict them in their freedom to explore their own believes in succes (finding the plane).

    All this kind of endavours start with imagination, calculated possibilities/risks and often huge investments.
    Some rich people have the money, moral and guts to risk loosing a couple of million dollars without ever having to bother about when they can buy their next new SUV.
    It just could be Oliver is one of them.

  20. SC is following their plan to do some testing on the way to the search area, starting around S35.6. That is consistent with Hal’s report. They stopped at a known wreck site MV Phoenix.

  21. Not the worst negotiating tactic. If Malaysia doesn’t sign they can say they had the ship, crew and equipment ready to go but Malaysia didn’t want to pay. More bad PR for Malaysia’s mishandling of the whole event. This underscores the fact that Malaysia doesn’t want to find the aircraft and the black boxes which will show that it was suicide and mass murder by the pilot.

  22. Is there any reason why they can’t test the AUVs over the crash site of SA295? As far as I know most of the wreckage is still down there & it would be interesting to see what they find. Would also be good experience prior trying to find Mh370 & it is of course on route to the new search area.

  23. Also Newsweek had a recent article I think before Economist saying the search was moving ahead, but it was confusing to me their proof of that headline.

  24. To expand on what ME said above & a bit of background:

    Wikipedia Search:

    MT Phoenix (1974)

    MT Phoenix was a tanker which went aground in heavy seas at Sheffield Beach just north of Ballito near Durban, South Africa on the morning of 26 July 2011. The vessel was on its way to India to be scrapped when it ran aground. After three attempts, it was refloated, towed and then scuttled and sunk in 2,000 metres (6,600 ft) of water, about 80 kilometres (43 nmi) offshore of Amanzimtoti, south of Durban.

  25. Most importantly, why would Malaysia expect this company to take the initiative and financial risk of readily positioning themselves to begin the search without a contract.

    And yet, Malaysia knows perfectly well how critical it is to have the search vehicles in place when the weather cooperates for such a short period of time. Waiting until now with no contract, how does their logic dictate the time allowance for the ship’s journey to the designated area

  26. I can not beleive the Malaysian attitude at all, and the latest “snippet”, that they will sign a contract next week, is hardly beleiveable either.

    Re: South African Airways Flight 295

    A recap of that disaster.

    Type: B747-244M
    Rego: ZS-SAS
    Name: Helderberg
    Airline: South African Airways
    Flight: SA295
    Crashed: 28 November 1987
    Fatalities: 19 Crew 140 Passengers
    Position: 19°10′30″S 59°38′0″E (19.175°S 59.63°E)

    Three debris fields were found:
    (A) 19°10′30″S 59°38′0″E
    (B) 19°9′53″S 59°38′32″E
    (C) 19°9′15″S 59°37′25″E.
    These locations are 1.5 km (0.93 mi), 2.3 km (1.4 mi) and 2.5 km (1.6 mi) apart.

    The aircraft broke up in flight.

    On 6 January 1989, the CVR (cockpit voice recorder) was salvaged successfully from a record depth of 4,900 metres (16,100 ft) by the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Gemini.

    But:- the FDR (flight data recorder) was never found.
    It must be found.
    Can Ocean Infinity find it ?

    Ocean Infinity could score a monumental feather in their cap, if they were to return to these wreckage fields for SA295, and did find, and recover, the FDR (flight data recorder).

  27. SA295 crashed over 1000 nm north of the GC course between Durban and the search area. Not going there.

  28. @airlandseaman

    “Not going there.”
    How can you be so sure ?

    From Durban to the SA295 crash site is only just over 1,700 Nautical Miles, which, at an average 13 knots transit speed, is only five and a half days sailing, give or take.

    In the overall scheme of things, if Ocean Infinity will not sail east and look for MH370 without a contract, and with the “weather season window” now already opened, and being consumed, day by day, it will soon become impractical to even start this season.

    Sorry to throw a wet towl on people’s optimism, but you have to be realistic, and remember that Fugro could continue to tow scan in sea states and weather conditions that precluded AUV launch and recovery operations. The realistic “season window” for Ocean Infinity’s AUV operations is both shorter and more temporal than what Fugro could operate in.

    Even if Seabed Constructor headed east today, it has to sail over 3,300 Nautical miles to get to David Griffin’s area, which, assuming sea states allow them to maintain 13 knots average transit speed, will take ten and a half days, minimum. So arrival “on station” would be January 14th, at the earliest.

    The clock is ticking.

    Malaysia knows this, and if the Malaysians continue to “beat around the bush”, and successfully “run out the clock on the starter’s gun” (so to speak), then I see a very valid “Plan-B” for Ocean Infinity, in revisiting SA295, for a number of reasons.

    First, the depth.
    Second, the physically disrupted nature of the wreckage into relatively small pieces, in multiple debris fields, not too far apart.

    Consider this Mike.
    SA295 broke up in flight.
    MH370 also broke up in flight, (according to you and many others, although I am a “ditcher”).

    Let us assume you are correct, and it did break up in flight.

    We would therefore expect the MH370 debris sites / fields to be similar in nature to the SA295 fields, would we not ?

    I think OI should go and “re-do” the SA295 debris fields, and publis all the data, in excruciating detail, to prove to the world, how good, and how advanced, their technology is.

    From a “Commercial Point of View”, (for the company displaying it’s real capabilities to prospective future clients) they can then say, here is the “before” (what the initial search teams got with the technology of the times) and here is the “after”, ie, what we can do, now, in “the present”. So much better. Hire us !

    But more importantly for us, from an “Investigative Point of View”, it would clearly demonstrate to the ATSB (and anyone else watching), that there is “no excuse” for not continuing the search, or placing bogus conditions on a search, like a “precise location” etc.

    The whole point of Ocean Infinity’s technological leap is more logistical than technical in nature. If they re-scanned around SA295, they may find a fourth smaller field, that was “missed” by the technology of the day, who knows ? What if that fourth smaller field just happened to contain the FDR ?

    If Ocean Infinity can prove it can effectively scan at ten times the speed as other existing methods, and come up with results and data as good and better, over a “known” past field, then we have direct evidence that the effective search cost and time expenses shrink dramatically.

    The tripartite would then have the validity of their “precise location” requirement blown out of the water, so to speak. Malaysia will then have to come up with “a new excuse” for drag their feet.

    We may have to sacrifice this season, and devote it to making next season a certainty, even if Australia ends up going it alone, which I would fully support. We did have six of our own on that plane you know.

  29. ventus45: I don’t think you have a clue what OI is planning. I can assure you, it does not include a 5 day deture to SA295. Where did you come up with this wild idea anyway?

  30. To be fair Mike nobody seems to be suggesting OI WILL be diverting to the site of SA295 or even that they MAY do. If what you say is correct (& we have no reason to believe otherwose) then there is NO plans for SC to visit the site of SA295.

    However what is being suggested is that the wreckage site is within reason proportional to what is expected to be found at the crash site of Mh370 so from a logical point of view (& if there was time) then honing the skills of the crew of SC on a site that is already to some degree surely beneficial.

    But I will say again. Nobody is claiming that SC IS going to search the site of SA295. BUT it MAY be a good idea to do so.

  31. I’m sure I’m going to get slammed for this post but…
    There is a theory on the net that Mh370 was shadowing a Sa flight who’s destination was Athens


    Not saying I believe the above theory but when I searched for Bermuda to Iceland (cause that’s where SC has been this year) I found the following map…

  32. @Laura, There was some speculation along those lines early on but no commercial flight matched MH370’s ping rings.

    Not sure I catch your drift regarding the map.

  33. Some updates…

    — Marine Traffic shows Seabed Constructor holding at the same location off the South African coast. Reported winds are 21 knots, which is a small craft warning, perhaps not suitable for deploying and retrieving AUVs.

    — Interesting Reuter’s story from yesterday:

    This part makes it sound like the signing of the contract is not a foregone conclusion:

    Malaysia’s deputy transport minister, Aziz Kaprawi, said the government was negotiating final terms of the agreement with Ocean Infinity and he was not aware of the vessel’s movement. “We are in the final stages of the decision. On our part, we have yet to finalise the agreement,” he told Reuters.

    Contrary to what the Economist reported, it seems that Ocean Infinity will not proceed without a contract:

    “Ocean Infinity is hopeful of receiving the final contract award for the resumption of the search for MH370 over the coming days,” a company spokesman told Reuters in an emailed statement. “With a relatively narrow weather window, we are moving the vessel, Seabed Constructor, towards the vicinity of the possible search zone. This is designed to save time should the contract award be forthcoming, as hoped,” he said.

    Interesting note of skepticism from Australian government:

    Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce, said the plane may never be found. “I have, to be quite frank, some concerns as to whether it will be found,” he told Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio on Thursday.

  34. @Laura
    I believe you are talking about Keith Legerwood’s theory which was a good theory in the first couple weeks. I believe he got a lot of respect, but by about late March_2014 he was advised by those close to JIT that the radar seemed to clearly put MH370 on flight path N571. However, it would appear to me MH370 was close to another flight UAE343, so I wonder why shadowing UAE343 might not be a possibility. It would appear from ATSB’s latest report that JIT probably knew UAE343 flight path and timing, and probably got radar hits on both MH370 and UAE343 to be able to differentiate MH370. We have to infer this as usual, but I believe the latest report suggests JIT could identify MH370 by comparison to other commercial flights. MH370 was about 4-6 minutes ahead of UAE343 at MEKAR.

  35. @Ventus45
    Re: SA295 How many nm did the debris spread out over? I recall seeing the TV/video showing the search findings (sonar photo of bottom debris) given to the search manager.

  36. @JW re: Interesting note of skepticism from Australian government: Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce, said the plane may never be found. “I have, to be quite frank, some concerns as to whether it will be found,” he told Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio on Thursday.

    The Audio of the ABC radio interview (Barnaby was on the phone in a Motel in Gympie in Queensland (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gympie)) is 7 minutes 36 seconds.

    The relevant section re MH370 is from 6 minutes 30 seconds until the end.


  37. @TBill
    Yes that was the article I meant to link, thanks for the correction.
    The map I was referring to shows SC travelling from Bermuda to Iceland and then on to Greece. I found it interesting because of Keith Ledgerwoods early theory that Mh370 was shadowing SIA68, which was on route to Athens.
    Coincidence perhaps, in just struck me as odd.

  38. You could read so much into that Radio interview that it would make you dizzy.

    Is he concerned about the vast amount of money that could be spent on searching without any success, is he being realistic in that the chance of success is slim therefore people should not be expecting anything positive or is he inferring that the Australian Government have intelligence to suggest that the plane isn’t where it is perceived to be.

    Personally I would think he is just acknowledging the fact that there is a very good chance that Mh370 might not be found & people should prepare themselves for that.

  39. @Michael John, An Australian journalist told me that within the ATSB there’s a great deal of skepticism about the Inmarsat analysis, and a lot of doubt about the validity of the new 25,000 sq km search area. As I’ve written about previously, if you look at the evidence in detail, there are many reasons to believe that the plane didn’t end up there. I took the deputy PM’s pessimism at face value–I think that, having been briefed on the full picture, he knows it’s unlikely that it will be found there.

    On the other hand, we know that Ocean Infinity was briefed by a full roster of experts from the ATSB, CSIRO, etc. What they were told, we don’t know. I’d be really curious to know how much Ocean Infinity really understands about the mission they’re undertaking.

    @All, Channel NewsAsia is now reporting that Malaysia has told the next-of-kin that they’ve agreed to a deal with Ocean Infinity:


    Specifically, the “government of Malaysia has engaged Ocean Infinity to undertake further search operation (sic) for MH370 on a ‘no cure, no fee’ basis.”

    Assuming this is true, it’s not clear why Malaysia would choose to break the news this way. It’s also not clear what the sticking point was, that it took them three months to reach an agreement.

  40. @Jeff

    I know 1st hand that there was the same elements of doubt circulating within AMSA from the outset. I obtained that information directly from a contact I had there. I bet those same people are now satisfied that the concerns were justified. These days I’m trying to keep my own views under control. As you know I have come under some scathing attacks for my criticism lol.

    Well it seems Malaysia has had it’s hand forced. If it doesn’t agree a deal with OI now then it stands to reason that if OI does find the aircraft at a later date then OI is at the advantage of charging whatever fee it wants before it gives Malaysia the exact location of the aircraft. On that basis Malaysia is forced to rush out a press release. Does anyone know how much the Fee will be?

  41. Regarding: “On the other hand, we know that Ocean Infinity was briefed by a full roster of experts from the ATSB, CSIRO, etc. What they were told, we don’t know. I’d be really curious to know how much Ocean Infinity really understands about the mission they’re undertaking.”

    You grossly underestimate OI’s understanding. They have been informed by many people beyond ATSB and CSIRO. Readers need not concern themselves with this uninformed speculation.

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