Mini-sub to dive again after aborting first MH370 search

By Greg Wood
15th April 2014

Perth (Australia) (AFP) – A mini-sub hunting missing Flight MH370 was set to sweep the Indian Ocean seabed again Tuesday after cutting short its first mission, as Malaysia vowed to reveal any ‘black box’ data found.

The unmanned submarine equipped with sonar gear was deployed Monday night from the Australian ship Ocean Shield, which has spearheaded the hunt for the Boeing 777 that vanished on March 8 with 239 people aboard.

But the dive by the Bluefin-21 detected nothing of interest before it automatically aborted the mission after breaching its maximum operating depth, the US Navy said in a statement.

The Australian agency coordinating the search said the Bluefin-21 “exceeded its operating depth limit of 4,500 metres (15,000 feet) and its built-in safety feature returned it to the surface”.

The unmanned Autonomous Underwater Vehicle was undamaged and set for a second sonar sweep during the day, weather permitting, officials said.

US Navy Captain Mark Matthews said the vehicle had exceeded programmed operational limits and automatically resurfaced.

“In this case the vehicle’s programmed to fly 30 metres over the floor of the ocean to get a good mapping of what’s beneath,” he told CNN from Perth.

“It went to 4,500 metres and once it hit that max depth, it said ‘This is deeper than I’m programmed to be’, so it aborted the mission.”

Officials said the crew would now refine the task to cope with the depth encountered.

“To account for inconsistencies with the sea floor, the search profile is being adjusted to extend the sonar search for as long as possible,” the US Navy statement said.

Australia’s Joint Agency Coordination Centre chief Angus Houston announced Monday officials would end three weeks of listening for signals from the plane’s black boxes and launch the submarine operation.

The mini-sub would conduct a sonar survey of the silty ocean floor for 16 hours at a time in hopes of finding some wreckage from the Malaysia Airlines flight which vanished en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

The US navy estimated it would take the Bluefin-21 from six weeks to two months to scan the entire search area, which has been deduced using satellite data and the detection of electronic pulses linked to black box recorders which were last heard a week ago.

Houston has described the detections as the best lead in the hunt for the plane, and added Monday that an oil slick had also been sighted in the search area.

It would take several days to test a sample of the oil ashore, but Houston said he did not think it was from one of the many ships involved in the hunt.

The cause of the plane’s disappearance, after being diverted hundreds of miles off course, remains a mystery. No debris has been found despite an enormous search involving ships and planes from several nations.

It is 39 days since the plane vanished, presumably crashing into the southern Indian Ocean, and the batteries powering the black box tracker beacons had a life of only around 30 days.

Ocean Shield detected four signals linked to the black boxes, but the last ping came on Tuesday last week and officials suspect the batteries are now dead.

Houston has stressed the enormous difficulties of working at great depths in such a remote location and cautioned about the difficulties of finding the black boxes.

If they are ever found, Malaysia’s Transport Minister pledged Tuesday to make public any data recovered, as the government battles widespread criticism over the transparency of its investigation.

“It’s about finding the truth. And when we… find out the truth, definitely we have to reveal what’s in the black box,” Hishammuddin Hussein told reporters.

“So there is no question of it not being released.”

The Malaysian government has been tight-lipped about its ongoing investigation into the disappearance of the jet, adding to the anger and frustration of relatives.

It has come under fire for a seemingly chaotic initial response, while the scarcity of official information on MH370 has prompted questions over its transparency.

Hishammuddin said at the weekend that Malaysia’s attorney general had been sent abroad to confer with the International Civil Aviation Organisation and determine which country would have custody of the black box, if it is ever found.

But he shrugged off the importance of the custody issue on Tuesday.

“I don’t think it’s important who gets custody as far as I’m concerned,” he told reporters.

Malaysian authorities insist they are hiding nothing but need to be cautious on commenting on ongoing investigations.

Hishammuddin also said an “international investigation team” that Malaysia plans to set up to probe MH370’s disappearance would be transparent and operate in accordance with international standards.

  1. #1 by worldpress on Tuesday, 15 April 2014 - 11:31 pm

    oh…acting still in action

    • #2 by cemerlang on Wednesday, 16 April 2014 - 1:14 pm

      camera lights action add in the scenes of screaming and tears make it all the more action movie ha ha ha

  2. #3 by boh-liao on Wednesday, 16 April 2014 - 1:57 am

    Amazing, 1M’sia FOREVER indebted 2 Australia
    Maha-liar MMK can’t kick d bucket in peace

    • #4 by cemerlang on Wednesday, 16 April 2014 - 1:15 pm

      omg when did tony abbot become our leader

  3. #5 by boh-liao on Wednesday, 16 April 2014 - 2:06 am

    M’sians should learn fr dis song

  4. #6 by undertaker888 on Wednesday, 16 April 2014 - 7:30 am

    Look at the countries contributing the most to help bolehland find the plane. Mostly kafir countries like Australia, UK, China, Japan, USA. Those countries that didn’t lift a finger but want to be more pious than any other, well you know which countries, bolehland is trying so hard to emulate.

    So where is our mighty perkosa, JAIS and jakim? Come on. Reject these kafir country help. It is haram just like the “Christians” helping poor Muslims in bolehland. Come on, show them your dance butt.

    • #7 by cemerlang on Wednesday, 16 April 2014 - 1:16 pm

      the islam god versus the christian god
      let the fight begin
      ha ha ha

  5. #8 by boh-liao on Wednesday, 16 April 2014 - 8:47 am

    Dis world still divided in2 zones of WAR n PEACE
    Look around d world, where R d HOT spots – blind killing of civilians by suicide bombers n cowards/cold blooded murderers planting bombs in public places
    WHO did dat?

    • #9 by cemerlang on Wednesday, 16 April 2014 - 1:18 pm

      pura pura peace you mean
      because we pura that is why we don’t have bombs, senapang, tanks, army
      because if we don’t pura, everything will letup and many people will suffer

  6. #10 by ablastine on Wednesday, 16 April 2014 - 10:26 am

    More important question is who if financing all these expensive searches in one of the deepest ocean in the world. I hope not the Malaysians as usual.

  7. #11 by Noble House on Thursday, 17 April 2014 - 3:58 am

    The Malaysian authorities have gotten their priorities wronged. The solving of the mystery of missing flight MH370 should take priority over that of the black box custody.

    Why was the AG in such a hurry to get his hands to it? He can have the whole Indian Ocean to himself if this is the case.

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