31 January 2018: Today the Malaysian government released its first weekly report on the progress of Ocean Infinity’s seabed search for the wreckage of MH370, available here. It includes the chart shown above, which includes not only the Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary zones of the 25,000 square kilometer search area originally described in Malaysia’s announcement of the search (see below) but also supplementary areas that are collectively more than twice as large, and stretch far beyond Broken Ridge to 29 degrees south latitude.
Before the release of this new report, Malaysia hadn’t signaled that it would be issuing updates on the search progress, let alone regular weekly ones, so its appearance is a welcome development.
The report notes that that first section of the search, namely the outermost portion of the Primary Search Area, has been completed without finding any wreckage. This section had previously been identified by Australian scientists as the most likely endpoint for MH370’s flight.
As I write this, the scan of the innermost section of the Primary Search Area has been completed, but the assessment has not yet been released. However, the fact that Seabed Constructor has moved on to another area suggests that probably nothing was found there, either. A big caveat: we don’t really know how long it takes the search team to assess the data collected during each pass.
A failure to find any wreckage in the Primary Search Area would come as a disappointment to David Griffin and his team at Australia’s CSIRO, who delclared in a June, 2017 report that after analyzing satellite imagery and drift patterns “we think it is possible to identify a most-likely location of the aircraft, with unprecedented precision and certainty.” The report specified three target points, all located within the Primary Search Area.
It’s worth noting that there are three compelling reasons to believe that MH370 did not crash in either of the newly designated supplementary search areas, which lie between 29 degrees and 32.5 degrees south latitude:
- The area was searched by the air in March, 2014, and no debris was spotted. (see below)
- It does not fit with debris drift modeling. Wreckage which entered the sea at this latitude would have reached the western Indian Ocean too quickly.
- An endpoint this far north does not match analysis of the Inmarsat signals carried out by Australia’s DSTG.
PS: While I’m at it, here’s my latest theory for why Paul Marshall is being so secretive about backing the latest search for MH370: he and Anthony Clake are treasure hunters. They’ve salvaged historical wrecks for bullion in the past, and this suggests that their interest in MH370 is primarily for financial gain. Treasure hunters tend to be seen by marine archaeologists as plunderers, so they are used to negative press. I think that if Ocean Infinity is successful, then Marshall understands that it will be open to portrayal in the media as having profited from a tragedy.
PPS: On Twitter Kevin Rupp (@LabratSR) has posted an image showing that Seabed Constructor is expected to arrive in Perth on February 8–that’s a week from Friday. Allowing for a few days’ transit time en route, there should be time for the ship to make some good progress into the Secondary Search Area before it departs on the 1200 nm trip.