back to article Australia releases MH370 sea floor data but search is still off

Geoscience Australia, the nation's agency for recording and sharing geographic and geological data, has released the first tranche of data captured during the search for missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370. The search for MH370 saw 120,000km2 of the sea floor subjected to a bathymetric survey. Geoscience Australia (GA) …

  1. Blotto Silver badge

    Huge areas depicted, but tiny in the grand scheme of things as shown when zoomed out.

    Sad for the family's not knowing after all this time.

    Have Malaysian Air had their third bit of bad luck yet?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Sad for the family's not knowing after all this time."

      I've spent some time thinking about what I would do (and what I would think) in such tragic circumstances, and concluded that I would, with deep regret, mark the question down as 'known' after about 36-48 hours. The act of 'holding out hope' beyond the point of reasonability seems to do infinitely more harm than good.

      What's missing is 'closure', but that's very different than "not knowing". Yes, it's a subtle point.

  2. 0laf Silver badge

    Maybe some interesting science as a side benefit of the search? Not really any comfort to the families I'm sure. It'll be found one day but maybe not for a long long time.

  3. Michael H.F. Wilkinson

    Very interesting data set. I might draw up some MSc thesis projects or student projects for the Computer Vision course I teach, developing methods to efficiently search for anomalies in those data. Much better than letting them use some toy data set. Not sure anything of note can be found, but at least there is some chance we can contribute a little

    1. Paul Kinsler Silver badge

      Re: Very interesting data set.

      ... and rather well presented, also.

  4. WatAWorld

    It is a salvage mission in international waters, China should take over the search

    Australia only had exclusive jurisdiction when it was a Search and Rescue mission.

    For a long while now it has been a salvage mission in international waters, anyone or any nation can do that.

    China or Malaysia should take over the search, because they have human reasons for wanting the salvage. (Or the USA, the aircraft manufacturer being based in the USA gives the USA technical reasons to want the salvage.)

    The rescue mission was completed long ago. Australia has no greater responsibilities in the salvage mission than India or South Africa or Canada does.

    For the sake of the families, I hope China does the right thing and starts planning its salvage mission immediately.

    1. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: It is a salvage mission in international waters, China should take over the search

      For the sake of the families, I hope China does the right thing and starts planning its salvage mission immediately.

      I don't see that happening any time soon. China has no skin in the game. It doesn't stand to benefit anything from such a mission. Australia has been running this search until now simply because it was closests (For a certain degree "close")

      1. Mike Richards Silver badge

        Re: It is a salvage mission in international waters, China should take over the search

        153 Chinese citizens were killed, so the state has a moral duty to investigate. Though 'moral' and the Communist Party are rarely bedfellows.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It is a salvage mission in international waters, China should take over the search

        "China has no skin in the game. It doesn't stand to benefit anything from such a mission. "

        The benefit to China would be prestige. The US has been the big player on the high seas since WWII. China is beginning to assert their sea going powers, finding MH370 would be a PR coup for their ability to conduct long operations at sea.

    2. Stuart 22

      Re: It is a salvage mission in international waters, China should take over the search

      "Or the USA, the aircraft manufacturer being based in the USA gives the USA technical reasons to want the salvage."

      Or the UK where Rolls Royce manufactured the powerplants? Except no problem with the airframe or engines is suspected so what's the point?

      And while I can understand the personal anguish of the familes and friends of the lost - should any nation consider the vast expense concerned whose only possible albeit remote result is to pinpoint a point of impact and which of the pilots 'did it' - when that same money could be sent saving or enhancing the lives of the living in more positive ways?

      Sometimes being cold and clinical may avoid even more anguish elsewhere. But its hard to explain that to those who, rightfully, are still suffering.

      1. boltar Silver badge

        Re: It is a salvage mission in international waters, China should take over the search

        "whose only possible albeit remote result is to pinpoint a point of impact and which of the pilots 'did it' "

        Indeed. The deliberate disabling of the transponder and the controlled change of course shortly afterwards firmly point the finger at deliberate human action, most likely one of the flight crew. The only other possibility is terrorism whereby one or more terrorists with 777 knowledge overpowered the crew, took over the plane and then for some reason failed to carry out their mission since I doubt their mission would have been to allow the plane to ditch in the sea and not tell the whole world about it.

      2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: It is a salvage mission in international waters, China should take over the search

        Stuart 22,

        No problem is suspected with the engines or airframe - given how long the plane flew. But although one theory is pilot action, electrical problems are also very likely. Fire or decompression, leading to oxygen-starved pilots not acting rationally has happened before.

        But even if it is a pilot, there may be things to be learned abou that which are useful.

        The point is, this isn't wasted money. The reason that air travel is safer than almost any other form of transport is that we put serious money into finding out what went wrong in the past, so we can solve it in future. Even some suicidal/homicidal pilot problems may have useful solutions/mitigations, if we know enough.

        It took 5 years, and serious effort to find the Air France crash in the South Atlantic. And that yielded really useful information about how modern fly-by-wire systems create some problems. So we now have some airlines deliberately encouraging their pilots to go off autopilot at high altitude cruise, just to get practise and 'feel' for the aircraft when it's in that always close to stall condition you get up high. Plus there's better training for what happens when fly-by-wire defaults to manual mode. And hopefully more thinking about how electronic cockpits can communicate with pilots when some of the data they're showing may be unreliable - giving the pilots a better chance to save an aircraft where the computers have given up in confusion and dropped everything back into the pilot's lap.

        As a bonus here we get to learn more about ocean currents and environment - which all feeds back nicely into climate change research, which seems to be quite sketchy on ocean data.

        1. Stuart 22

          Re: It is a salvage mission in international waters, China should take over the search

          "It took 5 years, and serious effort to find the Air France crash in the South Atlantic. And that yielded really useful information about how modern fly-by-wire systems create some problems."

          I fully agree with you there.

          The difference is that AFAIR we suspected that the pilot or the aircraft encountered some unexpected issue which we could learn from. And we did. Neither do I rule out completely that their isn't some useful knowledge lying at the bottom of the Indian Ocean. But there are not infinite resources available so a decision on whether to continue the search has to be made in advance on the balance of probabilities - since AF447 recovery cost a small fortune. Which of those would you have funded the most?

          Similarly the (lesser) expense on MH17 where no problem with the airframe/engines/pilots was suspected was almost entirely justified on attempting to point the finger at who fired the missile. Again a useful result (even if it is never going to be accepted by the guilty).

          The drive to find AF447 & and what hit MH17 was forensic. The drive to re-open the search appears to be coming solely for the emotional relief of know where the bodies are. That adds nothing to future aircraft safety or crimes against humanity. Only to human happiness.

          Or more precisely lessen unhappiness. If that's what you want to lessen in China or Malaysia there should be more effective ways of doing that - though it sadly may be that it would be another group of unhappy/starving/sick people that would benefit. And not be reported on worldwide.

        2. oiseau Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: It is a salvage mission in international waters, China should take over the search

          "The point is, this isn't wasted money. The reason that air travel is safer than almost any other form of transport is that we put serious money into finding out what went wrong in the past ... "

          Exactly.

          And in the end, it's all about that: the money.

          And nothing else.

          The world today pumps absurd amounts of money every day into 'other' things eg: just think how much an F35 costs.

          Australia has done very well.

          But now the rest of those who can should pitch in to continue the search till the plane is found.

          It's 'not' wasted money as there are huge benefits from plotting the ocean floor to the same degree of detail we have already done with the Moon and Mars.

          That said, in a planet that is totally blanketed by satellites covering (in every possible sense and extent) much more of it than what we think/know is covered, I find it rather hard to accept that no one knows where the plane is now.

          Mine's the bright yellow one.

          Cheers,

          1. anothercynic Silver badge

            Re: It is a salvage mission in international waters, China should take over the search

            @oiseau, the planet is, opposed to popular belief, not blanketed by satellites. Yes, they might have paths crisscrossing the planet, but satellites are designed to keep their beams on station. Those beams point at specific places, and unfortunately, the southern Indian Ocean is not really the most popular of places (shipping routes continue to 'hug' the continents, flights usually run along routes that put them within reach of the archipelagos of the Seychelles, Mauritius and Reunion). The satellites that *do* cover the remote areas of ocean are primarily maritime comms satellites for maritime sat calls.

            But, that said, MH370 forced ICAO to reevaluate how things are done, and developments with Iridium and Aereon *will* provide much better ADS-B coverage all over the planet (including those ocean backwaters). The industry is well aware that this flight going down has changed the game significantly, and if the opportunity presents itself to recover the recorders, evaluate them and come to a cause conclusion, it *will* be taken because the manufacturers, operators, and passengers will demand it.

      3. WatAWorld

        Re: It is a salvage mission in international waters, China should take over the search

        Agreed that it is only going to show the crash location. The bodies have likely been eaten or otherwise disintegrated by the oceans. In monetary and engineering terms there is next to nothing that would be learned.

        There is not only the monetary cost, but also the risk to human lives of the doing this in a very stormy ocean. Risking human lives for what to us is 'no good reason'.

        But I understand in Chinese culture there is an emotional desire to recover the bodies and that the Chinese families have been pushing the Australians to resume the search -- to make the attempt even if it is unlikely to be successful. Just like US marines risking their lives to drag home a deceased comrade.

        I can understand that desire, but the Chinese should be pushing their own government.

        Yes, we know the engines performed as designed until they ran out of fuel. We know that about the IMSAT transponder too.

        One of the strong likelihoods is that the accident was caused by a loss of pressurization due to fire in the cargo of LiNH batteries. With that theory the course changes are explained as the pilots attempting to take the aircraft where it could dump fuel and then land. Some of the cargo might be non-buoyant and still down there to provide charred evidence. But don't we already know that the bulk carriage of LiNH batteries is too dangerous to be permitted in passenger aircraft? So nothing to be gained there.

        A botched hijacking or robbery resulting in a depressurization is another theory, but that would not leave any evidence after so long.

        Pilot suicide wouldn't leave additional contrary evidence either. (Why commit suicide in a lengthy 7 hour manner where passengers and crew would stop you? Why not nose dive? Or better yet, why not kill do it at home and kill only yourself?)

        I doubt if the cockpit voice or flight data recorders, or cell phone memory cards, would be readable after so long under such deep water. Charred wreckage would be the only hope. And it would merely confirm what we already know about NiMh batteries.

        It can't be terrorism because by definition terrorism is done on civilian targets in a manner to create terror in civilian populations. By definition, if it is made to look like an accident, if it is deliberately done in a manner not to cause terror, it isn't terrorism.

        The only reason to pursue the salvage is cultural for the families of the survivors. So they can tell their friends and family, and the spirits of their ancestors, that they tried to do the (culturally) right thing and recover the bodies. I can understand that. But I cannot understand asking the Australians to do it for them. To whatever extent this is a part of Chinese culture the Chinese government should want to do this for its people.

        IF in fact there is some new suggested search zone. I read the quote from the end of this fresh report as saying drift debris is consistent with the zone already searched on the basis of the satellite transmissions.

        But yeah, no economic or safety reason to continue the search. Only a cultural one.

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: It is a salvage mission in international waters, China should take over the search

          The Air France voice and data recorders were still readable. Those things are tough. And the physical positions of valves, guages and switches have often been vital in telling what happened. You can't assume there'll be no data. It's amazing how many crash results are worked out from partial data.

          There's obviously a financial limit on what to spend. But it's worth spending a bit of time looking at drift patterns and seeing how they differ from our expectations, so we can refine our models an go back to a targetted search later.

        2. collinsl

          Re: It is a salvage mission in international waters, China should take over the search

          You have transitioned from LINH to NiMh batteries in your post - can you clarify that you mean LiOn batteries please?

          Also we don't know that batteries caused the crash - in fact I suspect an in flight fire could not be the cause as the plane likely wouldn't have survived for 7 hours intact.

          Please stop speculating as all it does is stir emotion and not lead anywhere.

  5. WatAWorld

    Contradicts suggestion drift modeling indicated a different crash location than was searched

    This quote near the end of the report (near the end of the "The data behind the search for MH370" section of the report, ahead of the "Drift Modeling Simulations by CSIRO" video) seems to contradict the interpretation that the drift modeling suggested a different crash location than was searched.

    "Using the locations of confirmed debris, the Australian Government’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, the CSIRO, conducted drift modelling analysis to determine possible locations of the MH370 crash site. The results of this modelling were consistent with the search area."

    IF that is correct, then no wonder they haven't restarted the search, and no wonder China hasn't take over the salvage search for its own people.

    1. JimC

      Re: Contradicts suggestion drift modeling indicated a different crash location

      The wording was always odd and a bit unclear, but the impression I got was that it meant 'Bearing in mind that MH370 doesn't seem o be in the original search area then its most likely to be in this area'

      1. lglethal Silver badge
        Go

        Re: Contradicts suggestion drift modeling indicated a different crash location

        I think the reporters statement comes from a recent article.

        At the time the earch was underway, the current search area was thought to be the right one. The search was even extended at one point, because an update suggested a new area would be better. Now another scientific team, has used the lessons learned from this search to create a new drift model and they say the search area is further north.

        However, one thing to remember in all this, is that these are all just simulations based on relatively minimal data. We just dont have a good idea of how things move in the southern Indian Ocean.

        So I can fully understand the Australians not being willing to fund even more searches right now based on these new models. The process of refining the models can go on for years before anything resembling real accuracy occurs. I feel sorry for the families, but there is only so much you can do...

        1. coconuthead

          Re: Contradicts suggestion drift modeling indicated a different crash location

          For domestic political reasons, the present Australian government would do anything not to make the CSIRO, especially its Hobart scientists, look good. The government originally proposed deep cuts to the Marine and Atmospheric Sciences Division because there is a faction of climate change deniers within the ruling parties. After huge domestic protest which went nowhere, they were eventually dressed down in a lead New York Times editorial and somewhat scaled back the cuts. So, you see, for them to have spent hundreds of millions of dollars looking in the wrong place and then be told *by the CSIRO* "no, it's over there" looks bad. It would look even worse if they resumed the search and found it where the CSIRO says it is.

          So of course they won't resume it.

          (I seem to recall reports in the media here at the time casting doubt on the INMAR position. This was during the period when the black box pinger was still running, and there were those that said the search should not be moved from where it was to where INMAR were saying.)

  6. tokamaktech

    Undersea pyramids?

    Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn ?

    1. handleoclast
      Coat

      Re: Undersea pyramids?

      Yeah, but Bill O'R'lyeh getting fired for sexual harassment is old news, whatever language you say it in.

  7. Marcelo Rodrigues

    The mind boggles

    To look at a so vast already searched area, and to think it is so small next to the rest. Watching the video, and thinking that the plane could be just 50 meters to the left from one of these searched corridors...

  8. AJames

    Nice job by the Australians

    The Australian government agencies have done a superb job overall, both on conducting the search and keeping the public informed. This interactive presentation is just the latest in a series of very informative public releases. I want the Australians to conduct the search if a plane ever goes missing with one of my family on board!

  9. Rustbucket

    Offer A Prize

    One possible cheap way for the government to continue the search is to offer a large cash prize and let the private explorers and adventurers get on with it.

    A prize of say $10 to $20 million should be enough to inspire interest from the well heeled internet entrepreneurs etc. The Australian and Chinese governments could go halves, and if no results then no payout.

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