MH370 search re­veals hid­den un­der­sea world

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD -

SYD­NEY — The painstak­ing search for miss­ing Malaysia Air­lines Flight MH370 has un­cov­ered a pre­vi­ously un­known un­der­sea world of vol­ca­noes, deep val­leys and soar­ing ridges, ac­cord­ing to de­tailed maps re­leased by Aus­tralia.

Al­though no trace of the plane was found dur­ing the search in the south­ern In­dian Ocean — the most ex­pen­sive ever of its kind — large vol­umes of data show­ing a de­tailed pic­ture of the sea floor had to be col­lected to guide the probe.

Sci­en­tists are hope­ful the new maps will give their com­mu­nity greater in­sight into oceans. “It is es­ti­mated that only 10 to 15 per­cent of the world’s oceans have been sur­veyed with the kind of tech­nol­ogy used in the search for MH370,” Geo­science Aus­tralia’s en­vi­ron­men­tal geosci- ence chief Stu­art Minchin said late Wednes­day.

“(That makes) this re­mote part of the In­dian Ocean among the most thor­oughly mapped re­gions of the deep ocean on the planet.

“So this data is unique both be­cause of the re­mote lo­ca­tion of the search area, and be­cause of the sheer scale of the area sur­veyed.”

Minchin said the maps would also be use­ful for fu­ture sci­en­tific re­search, such as oceano­graphic and habi­tat mod­el­ing.

Aus­tralia, Malaysia and China sus­pended the hunt in Jan­uary, al­most three years af­ter the Boe­ing 777 dis­ap­peared with 239 peo­ple on board.

The hunt — based on satel­lite anal­y­sis of the jet’s likely tra­jec­tory af­ter it di­verted from its flight path — cov­ered a 120,000 square-kilo­me­ter des­ig­nated zone, an area slightly smaller than Eng­land.

Two ship­wrecks were dis­cov­ered dur­ing the search but no trace of the plane, deep­en­ing one the most en­dur­ing mys­ter­ies of the avi­a­tion age.

How­ever, the data re­vealed ridges 6-km-wide and 15-km­long that rise 1.5 km above the sea floor, as well as fault val­leys 1.2 km deep and 5 km wide.

A sec­ond set of data will be re­leased in mid-2018.

While the search for the miss­ing plane has been called off, Can­berra has said it could be restarted if new ev­i­dence about the spe­cific lo­ca­tion of the air­craft emerges.

“We re­main hope­ful that new in­for­ma­tion will come to light and that at some point in the fu­ture the air­craft will be lo­cated,” Aus­tralia’s Trans­port Min­is­ter Dar­ren Ch­ester said.

Aus­tralia’s na­tional sci­ence body CSIRO re­leased a re­port in April con­firm­ing that MH370 was “most likely” north of the former search zone.

Three frag­ments from the plane have been re­cov­ered washed up on western In­dian Ocean shores, in­clud­ing a two-meter wing part known as a flap­eron found on La Re­union Is­land.

Spec­u­la­tion on the cause of the plane’s dis­ap­pear­ance has fo­cused pri­mar­ily on pos­si­ble hi­jack­ing, rogue pi­lot ac­tion or me­chan­i­cal fail­ure, but noth­ing has yet been proved.

ROB GRIF­FITH / AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Flight Of­fi­cer Jack Chen searches for miss­ing Malaysia Air­lines Flight MH370 in south­ern In­dian Ocean on March 22, 2014.

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