Join 3,512 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Abyssmal odds
April 8, 2014 1:08 PM   Subscribe

The depth of the problem - this WaPo infographic hints at the immense challenges that Australian and Chinese search teams will face in recovering the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 black box from its suspected location at the bottom of the Indian Ocean
posted by Blazecock Pileon (188 comments total) 52 users marked this as a favorite

 
(Previous MetaFilter thread.)
posted by stopgap at 1:14 PM on April 8


Abyssmal odds

I see what you did there.
posted by Twain Device at 1:16 PM on April 8 [14 favorites]


For additional comparison, Air France 447 was found at a depth of 12,500 to 13,100 ft and locating it took two years.
posted by Big_B at 1:22 PM on April 8 [1 favorite]


That illustration is horrifying.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:23 PM on April 8 [27 favorites]


Relevant XKCD
posted by jeribus at 1:24 PM on April 8 [19 favorites]


Thanks for posting the follow-on thread. This comment by nangar had a collection of resources, including: among other things...
posted by RedOrGreen at 1:24 PM on April 8


That second graphic. I had to turn my monitor sideways and it was still a long scroll. I don't have words.
posted by arcticseal at 1:25 PM on April 8


For additional comparison, Air France 447 was found at a depth of 12,500 to 13,100 ft and locating it took two years.
posted by Big_B at 4:22 PM on April 8 [+] [!]


But they had bodies and wreckage within a few days, so they had a pretty good idea where to look.
posted by Gungho at 1:26 PM on April 8 [2 favorites]


Here's hoping the black box ping detection turns out to be legit.
posted by vibrotronica at 1:34 PM on April 8 [3 favorites]


Holy crap. That info graphic is awesome and insane all at once.

It took 73 years to find the Titanic? I did not know this.
posted by sio42 at 1:35 PM on April 8


Geez, that thing might as well be in outer space.
posted by edheil at 1:36 PM on April 8 [3 favorites]


sio42, according to Wikipedia, "Various expeditions tried using sonar to map the sea bed in the hope of spotting the wreck, but failed due to a combination of bad weather, technological difficulties and poor search strategy. The wreck was finally located, 13.2 miles (21.2 km) from the inaccurate position transmitted by Titanic's crew while the ship was sinking."
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:39 PM on April 8


I predict that they will never find the wreckage of Flight 370, but they will discover the Nautilus
posted by philip-random at 1:39 PM on April 8


As an aside, CNN discovered that their ratings shot way up in people interested in that missing aircrart. So, dummies that they are, they run, nearly non-stop panels discussing maybe this and perhaps that endlessly, as though days and days later tv viewers care nothing at all for any other things that might be taking place, such as the Russian moves on Ukraine, or the dropping of laws against pot state by state or other news.
posted by Postroad at 1:42 PM on April 8 [10 favorites]


Another depth map for your perusal.
posted by Yowser at 1:48 PM on April 8 [10 favorites]


The issue of Titanic was pretty much a case of the technology not being there. It's not like there were ships looking for it for 73 years straight.

They have autonomous ROVs now that will "mow the lawn" until the find it. If they've narrowed the search this much already, they'll find it, assuming the will is there. It's funny that they listed the Alvin in the infographic, when there's much more capable submersibles out there.
posted by entropicamericana at 1:50 PM on April 8 [1 favorite]


My theory as to the lack of wreckage is that the lunatic piloting MH370 set it down 'gently' in the water ala Sully Sullenberger and the plane is lying on the ocean floor in one piece.
posted by zeoslap at 1:54 PM on April 8 [1 favorite]


Postroad: "As an aside, CNN discovered that their ratings shot way up in people interested in that missing aircrart. So, dummies that they are, they run, nearly non-stop panels discussing maybe this and perhaps that endlessly, as though days and days later tv viewers care nothing at all for any other things that might be taking place, such as the Russian moves on Ukraine, or the dropping of laws against pot state by state or other news."

At least they haven't started shooting down planes. Yet.
posted by chavenet at 1:57 PM on April 8 [4 favorites]


Could a gentle landing happen on autopilot? Probably the most sensible theory I've heard so far is the 'ghost plane' theory, where an electrical fire disabled communication, the pilot turned to fly to the nearest airport, and the smoke disabled the passengers and crew, causing the plane to fly on that heading until it ran out of fuel. Are autopilots today sophisticated enough that they might glide a plane out of fuel down to a soft landing?
posted by Mitrovarr at 1:58 PM on April 8


Topograpghy of the underwater search area (BBC).
posted by nangar at 2:00 PM on April 8


This has turned out to be challenging and complicated.
posted by mazola at 2:02 PM on April 8 [1 favorite]


On the xkcd comic, can someone explain the "accurate horizontal scale" panels? Because my pea-brain isn't grokking it....
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 2:02 PM on April 8 [1 favorite]


I understand that to showcase the long length vs how relatively short the island is.
posted by Twain Device at 2:04 PM on April 8


(or the trench as the case may be)
posted by Twain Device at 2:05 PM on April 8


I think it's just to illustrate that it isn't a V-shaped pit, that it slopes down to that level.
posted by troika at 2:06 PM on April 8 [4 favorites]


Current theory on ppprune (some 10000 posts and counting) is the pilot flew the plane intentionally around radar coverage of Indonesia and ditched in the most remote place he could possibly reach.

The fire and malfunction theory has been dealt with and rejected, and as for a controlled ditching in one piece, this has also been fairly shown to be impossible - not in those waters.

Personally, I concur with the views that the pilot/pilots switched off comms, depressurized the cabin while themselves holding on to their oxygen masks, sharply increased altitude (perhaps to accelerate the depressurization/chilling of passengers and crew, whose oxygen would only last 22 minutes, and perhaps also to make their entry into the cockpit more difficult at an upwards angle), then dived sharply almost to sea level to repressurize and zigzagged to avoid most known radars.

The plane then flew on, ditched and the debris was carried away in the currents and wind while everybody was looking elsewhere.

It seems that the plan was from the start to ditch the plane in the deepest possible water around there.
posted by Laotic at 2:08 PM on April 8 [2 favorites]


Laotic, and the motive for that would be what?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:12 PM on April 8 [17 favorites]


Sorry for a double post, but this ppprune comment merits stating here, just to show how much farther those guys are (and this looks like a plausible route theory to me):

Australian Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston announced on April 6 that the Australian vessel Ocean Shield detected two pingers in the water and showed a map displaying the location of the sighting as S21°E104°. The map also showed the location of the sighting by the Chinese vessel HaiXun01 as S25°E101°, and showed that the two sightings were about 600 km apart. A map supplied later by the Australian government showed the same two sightings as lying on an arc going from northeast to southwest that corresponded to “satellite handshake calculation number 7”, which was made from the Inmarsat satellite data corresponding to the last partial ping of flight MH370. The aircraft is believed to have gone down somewhere along this arc, with slower air speeds corresponding to locations further northeast, and faster air speeds corresponding to locations further southwest.
It is interesting that there is an air route that passes between these two points on its way to Perth, route L894, as determined by waypoints POLUM at S19°59.95' E98°32.91' and NINOB at S26°0.15' E106°28.84. This air route happens to be the most southern of all air routes in the south Indian ocean and passes from northwest to southeast on its way to Perth. Is it possible that flight MH370 was on this air route just before ditching when its fuel ran out? If it had been flying by waypoints from POLUM to NINOB, this would have been consistent with using waypoints to fly from VAMPI to IGREX over the Andaman sea, and possibly also from IGARI to VAMPI to pass over the Malaysian peninsula. It would also have been consistent with using waypoints to fly around the Indonesian peninsula on its way south from IGREX to avoid Indonesian radar. If one assumes that MH370 used a waypoint like NISOK to avoid Indonesian radar on its way south from IGREX, then one can construct a flight plan consisting of the waypoints WMKK PIBOS GUNBO IKUKO IGARI VAMPI GIVAL MAPSO IGREX NISOK POLUM NINOB and determine how long it might take to get from Kuala Lumpur to the area between POLUM and NINOB. When you do this, you find that the flight time from Kuala Lumpur to NINOB is 7 hours and 52 minutes at 430 knots, which compares quite closely to the actual 7 hours and 54 minutes flight time determined by the 0:25 a.m. departure time and the 8:19 a.m. time of the last partial ping. Allowing for the possibility of additional waypoints between IGREX and NINOB would mean a longer flight distance, which would mean that the aircraft did not quite reach NINOB, but instead went down somewhere on the flight path between POLUM and NINOB. This, of course, assumes an airspeed of 430 knots. A faster air speed would have caused the plane to come down further southeast along the air route, and a slower air speed would have caused the plane to come down further northwest along the air route.

If one combines the Inmarsat data with the assumed flight path data, one gets two lines which intersect at nearly a 90° angle. The intersection point is almost exactly half way between the two ping sightings by the Chinese vessel HaiXun01 at S25°E101° and the Ocean Shield at S21°E104°. This means that the most likely place where MH370 went down is approximately S23°4.24’ E102°27.58’, which is the only point to lie on both the 40° arc and the L894 flight path. Given the short time remaining in the pinger lifetime, it would be well worth searching around this location.
posted by Laotic at 2:12 PM on April 8 [11 favorites]


roomthreeseventeen, sorry, did not see your comment.

I do not come from an Anglo-saxon culture and the search for "motive" is alien to me. I accept that people think in ways which I may not even be able to comprehend.

At the current state of things (absolutely no hard evidence) it is premature to theorize on the motive. But if you search, you'll find clues.
posted by Laotic at 2:14 PM on April 8 [11 favorites]


Excellent deployment of a scroll bar. Nicely done, WaPo.
posted by Dashy at 2:17 PM on April 8 [4 favorites]


A cyclone passed through the current search in between March 8 and the beginning of search in the current area, which poses some problems for trying to find debris on the surface.
posted by nangar at 2:25 PM on April 8


That is about as close to off the face of the earth as you can get. If it's an accident it would be quite a coincidence. On the other hand unlikely coincidences actually happen all the time.
posted by bukvich at 2:28 PM on April 8


I assume James Cameron is suiting up?
posted by Flashman at 2:32 PM on April 8 [2 favorites]


So we just need to invert five or six Burj Khalifas. What's the holdup?
posted by benzenedream at 2:35 PM on April 8 [3 favorites]


> Current theory on ppprune (some 10000 posts and counting) is the pilot flew the plane intentionally around radar coverage of Indonesia and ditched in the most remote place he could possibly reach.

Though I think this theory is plausible, it's not anything like a consensus view of PPRuNe members. There isn't a consensus theory on PPRuNe.
posted by nangar at 2:39 PM on April 8 [3 favorites]


I discovered about two scrolls into that infographic that I was holding my breath. Even once I was conscious of it, I kept doing it and not noticing until I realized that I should really breathe.
posted by rtha at 2:46 PM on April 8 [3 favorites]


Also from the WaPo: A black-box ping's distorted journey, which shows the undersea topography & water temperatures of the search areas, and discusses the impact those have on the black-box's audio signal.

(They've been putting out some very good graphics lately. Even the animated gif for the depth story currently on their front page is great.)
posted by Westringia F. at 2:49 PM on April 8


And now I see that that was already linked. D'oh.
posted by Westringia F. at 2:50 PM on April 8


Does anyone know why the black boxes can't be outfitted with something buoyant, or something that it could deploy to become buoyant?

Also, buoyant.
posted by oneironaut at 3:07 PM on April 8 [3 favorites]


It's funny that they listed the Alvin in the infographic, when there's much more capable submersibles out there.

Alvin was just redesigned and newly built. It recently went on a test drive. It will have the ability to dive to 6500 meters, or about 21,000 ft. I have been down to the seafloor in Alvin (to about 10,000 ft) a few times. At those depths, of course, it is completely black. The visibility is excellent and water quite clear unless you stir up the sediment on the bottom. But your line of sight is limited to a very small area illuminated by the submersible. Finding anything using a grid search pattern would be extremely difficult I think.

They have autonomous ROVs now that will "mow the lawn" until the find it.

True. But I guess the question is how the aircraft will be detected by such an ROV. They can be used to generate super high resolution seafloor topography, so perhaps that could work assuming the plane could be distinguished from natural topographic features. A visual search would be limited by the small illuminated area immediately around the ROV.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 3:08 PM on April 8 [48 favorites]


Pretty much the middle of nowhere, yeah: Poles of inaccessibility
posted by indubitable at 3:09 PM on April 8 [5 favorites]


15 years from now when vast networks of insect-size sensors are deployed by Homeland Security, there will be submersible versions too.

The sensors will map and monitor everything everywhere. Finding the wreckage (if there is wreckage) will be a byproduct.
posted by surplus at 3:15 PM on April 8


oneironaut: Does anyone know why the black boxes can't be outfitted with something buoyant, or something that it could deploy to become buoyant?

Also, buoyant.


Probably because the black box is deliberately built into the most well-protected part of the interior of the plane. Doesn't matter if it's bouyant, it isn't getting out of the wreck.
posted by Mitrovarr at 3:40 PM on April 8 [5 favorites]


And if it gets out and floats away, now you don't know where the plane was.
posted by Big_B at 3:43 PM on April 8 [2 favorites]


How long does it take for something like the Boeing 777 to sink?
posted by divabat at 3:48 PM on April 8


Wow, I didn't hear about the Alvin rebuild. That's great news. Very jealous of your dive experience. Care to share more about it?

I'm assuming the seafloor is extremely flat and devoid of features at that depth due to sediment build up. Do you not think it would be fairly easy to spot the airplane wreckage from the topographic data?
posted by entropicamericana at 3:59 PM on April 8


Is there maybe a way to build a radar map of the seabed in the relevant areas and try to spot any unusual shapes, such as a wing fragment might be etc.? And upon finding such a shape send a dedicated submersible for a closer look. I'm mostly thinking about speed here and coverage. Trying to spot stuff visually seems much harder, whereas blasting the area with radiowaves from above might cover a greater area and not necessitate getting super close to the seabed floor. Of course some giant array antennas strapped to the bottom of tanker size ships would be useful, and have all the data coordinated and sorted by computer, but that's probably not very realistic.
posted by VikingSword at 4:09 PM on April 8


It's very difficult to find wreckage with bathymetry (topography under water) data. You typically look for wrecks and debris fields with sidescan sonar, which gives a two dimensional map of an area on either side of a sonar. But you need to use a sonar that can "see" far enough to search a useful area within a reasonable time. Manned submersibles don't use this kind of sonar. They are equipped usually with scanning sonars (like you'd see in the movies), but these don't create maps as they go, and don't see so far. ROVs aren't your go-to equipment either. These are remotely operated vehicles that have cameras, manipulator arms, and scanning sonars on them. These are typically deployed after a target is detected with sidescan sonar, to verify what the target is with the cameras, and then to do any salvage with the "manips."
Also, the sea floor isn't necessarily flat mud in deep water. There are many outcrops, seamounts, and various other changes in relief in many places throughout the deep ocean. But there are indeed vast areas of flat mud. It just depends on where your target area happens to be.
posted by Kaigiron at 4:10 PM on April 8 [3 favorites]


VikingSword, radar doesn't see far at all under water. All EM radiation gets attenuated very quickly under water, just like light. This is why sonar is used for under water searches. A low frequency system at, say, 30kHz can cover up to 6km swath. Higher frequency systems will see higher resolution, but with less range.
posted by Kaigiron at 4:13 PM on April 8


I have been down to the seafloor in Alvin (to about 10,000 ft) a few times.

holy shit go on please
posted by griphus at 4:15 PM on April 8 [25 favorites]


Yes, please do.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:19 PM on April 8 [2 favorites]


Right, Kaigiron, I was thinking of "radar" in a more general sense of picking a range of frequencies that provide more data in the environment its meant to map. My main idea here is that with the computational power at our disposal these days, we can now deal with noise and compensation a heck of a lot better. We can account for movement, density differences, interference, refraction etc., all in real time. You could theoretically have pretty weak feedback, but with massively increased computational power, resolve a great deal. In fact, a broader spectrum might give us more data, because each frequency will provide a different aspect (f.ex. density difference between mud and metal for buried items etc.), that can later be integrated.
posted by VikingSword at 4:23 PM on April 8


Well, with radar it's not an issue of computational power. It's simply that the signal itself is never going to go far in water. It's an inherent limitation of EM waves in that medium. No frequency of EM radiation is going to travel far enough under water to be useful in a large area search like this. Again, this is why we use sonar to search for things under water.
You are right about the advantage of a broader spectrum though. Modern sonars usually use a "chirp" signal, that cycles through different frequencies.
posted by Kaigiron at 4:28 PM on April 8


Geez, that thing might as well be in outer space.

I wish... It's easy to find things in outer space.
posted by BrashTech at 4:34 PM on April 8 [2 favorites]


Probably the most sensible theory I've heard so far is the 'ghost plane' theory

I think the latest official path of the flight puts that theory to bed. If accurate it was clearly a deliberate act. "If accurate" being key, of course, since they keep changing the official story of the initial flightpath around Indonesia.
posted by Justinian at 4:43 PM on April 8


For reference, and presumably lessons learned, here are some technical details of the search for Air France 447 -- which also took place after the pinger died. This is the REMUS 6000, one of the vehicles used -- and Woods Hole already has an MH370 FAQ with relevant details for any future search activity.
posted by dhartung at 5:00 PM on April 8 [1 favorite]


roomthreeseventeen Laotic, and the motive for that would be what?

Pilot suicide. It has happened before. Here are several well-known examples.

posted by mlis at 5:09 PM on April 8


Except none of those examples really look like this case at all. If the pilot wanted to commit suicide, why go through all the rigmarole? These people all pretty much seemed to wait until no one was in the cockpit (or, in fact, stole a plane) and then piled it in ASAP.

At this point I'm with Justinian re: the official story out of Malaysia. "We can't tell you anything about our ongoing investigation but we can tell you he deleted several files on his computer!" Christ, if these guys looked at my Kerbal Space Program folder they probably wet themselves.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 5:22 PM on April 8 [4 favorites]


Just forget it, man. It's gone.
posted by turbid dahlia at 5:28 PM on April 8


Also, any reason why, in this day and age, cockpit recordings can't be beamed directly to a satellite or something? Get that black box shit into the cloud already.
posted by turbid dahlia at 5:31 PM on April 8 [4 favorites]


I was just reading a wired article from 2011 about the same thing turbid dahlia check it out.
posted by Carillon at 5:40 PM on April 8 [1 favorite]


Geez, that thing might as well be in outer space.

It'd be easier if it was. There are a lot more vehicles sitting around that can get into space, not to mention people who have been there.
posted by Kadin2048 at 5:47 PM on April 8


holy shit go on please

My Alvin dives were to explore a feature called the Mid Ocean Ridge in the Pacific. This is where two tectonic plates form and spread apart with time. It is a site of volcanic activity, spectacular hot springs, and associated unique biologic ecosystems. We were basically examining all of those things at the same location. An Alvin dive is an all day affair starting at about 8 AM. The descent starts by climbing into the sub on the ship. The sub is then lifted off the ship and placed on the sea surface where you wait for about 20 minutes. During that time you are basically inside a beach ball bobbing up and down in the waves. Then you descend very slowly and it takes about 1 hour or so to get down to 10,000 feet to the seafloor. The descent is awesome. With all the lights out, once you get beyond the depth that sunlight penetrates it is totally black and all you see is amazing bioluminescent creatures. When you reach the bottom, work begins which for me involved sampling rocks, hot spring fluids, and biological samples. The sub fits 3 people--one engineer who actually drives it and manipulates the robotic arms and 2 scientists who make the observations and instruct the engineer where to take the samples. Then at about 5 PM, you begin the slow ascent back to the surface. It is an awesome experience and not scary at all. The worst part is the lack of a toilet. If you must pee, you use a bottle (with funnel for girls) and a blanket for privacy. And you don't do #2, because, well, you just don't and if you do you use your pants. It is a cramped space but the new Alvin has much more leg room.

I'm assuming the seafloor is extremely flat and devoid of features at that depth due to sediment build up.

How flat the seafloor is really depends (on a large scale) how far you are from the Mid-Ocean Ridge. The MOR is where the seafloor is very young so there hasn't been anytime for sediment to build up. Picture a very rough volcanic terrain. With distance from the MOR the seafloor rock gets older and is increasingly covered by sediment--so the topography gets a lot smoother. But even in that environment, seamounts and abyssal hills could poke above the sediment cover.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 5:53 PM on April 8 [183 favorites]


Just more speculation, but there needn't be one single explanation, so that it must've been either a hijack or a suicide or a fire, with all of them being mutually exclusive. It is at least conceivable that it was a deliberate hijack with a clear plan, the first part of which was executed (dodging the radars), and then an accident happened, incapacitating the hijacker, after which the plane continued to fly on autopilot until running out of fuel. Or some other such series of events...
posted by Pyrogenesis at 5:53 PM on April 8


I think it was swamp gas. Or possibly Venus.
posted by Justinian at 6:05 PM on April 8


I'm not sure what's the point in continuing to post these, unless something happens, but here are today's official search updates: JACC, AMSA.

Yesterday, they dropped sonobouys around the location where Haixun 01 picked up a 37.5kHz signal (map detail). Today, they're planning to do the same for the Ocean Shield's location. The Echo and the Ocean Shield are continuing to search in their respective areas.

(Map of the underwater search area, for reference.)
posted by nangar at 6:14 PM on April 8


CNN discovered that their ratings shot way up

yes. yes they did.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 6:35 PM on April 8 [4 favorites]


philip-random: "I predict that they will never find the wreckage of Flight 370, but they will discover the Nautilus"

Oh, that's easy, it's in Connecticut.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:37 PM on April 8 [3 favorites]


I wonder how much harder of an effort the recovery would be if these were 30,000 ft waters. There's a lot of 25-30,000 ft trenches off the Philippines and Japan, and it's not too hard to see a plane sinking in one someday. I wonder if there's any room to engineer stronger pinger signals, whether it's a matter of transmitting at longer wavelengths, or transmitting more powerful pulses at weaker intervals. Still, at 15,000 ft that's a victory and I'm glad there's some closure here (and an end to all the conspiracy theories).
posted by crapmatic at 6:59 PM on April 8


"I wonder how much harder of an effort the recovery would be if these were 30,000 ft waters."
Impossible actually. Nobody makes any of the equipment you would use for a search that can go that deep. Nobody does because there is no need to. The trenches represent the tiniest fraction of the area of the sea floor. There're just tiny slivers of super deep. The vast majority of the deep ocean is between 3,000 and 6,000meters. When people talk about equipment that get to "full ocean depth," they mean 6,000m.
I've never even heard of a single known shipwreck that is thought to be in a trench, and there are shipwrecks all over the place. It's just really unlikely for something to down right on one of those spots.
posted by Kaigiron at 7:13 PM on April 8


Ocean Shield has reacquired the signals -- twice more. News breaking live on Aus TV right now. Watch for press conference transcript. The Kuala Lumpur think-tank has done well to get this outcome from its first proposed subsurface search path.

There's confidence that what has been detected is a flight data recorder (not some naturally occurring acoustic event).

Yay!
posted by de at 8:13 PM on April 8 [1 favorite]


...and the new planned search area is still 75,000 square km...
posted by Jimbob at 8:15 PM on April 8


From Twitter: @cnnbrk 1 min
#MH370 search: Official: Ship reacquires signals consistent with airplane locator beacons 2 more times http://cnn.it/1g0BIyQ
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:15 PM on April 8


CNN Breaking News ‏@cnnbrk 2 mins
Official in #MH370 search: Signals picked up are consistent with a flight data recorder. http://cnn.it/1g0BIyQ
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:22 PM on April 8


I'm assuming the seafloor is extremely flat and devoid of features at that depth due to sediment build up. I've worked with side-scan & seismic surveys of ocean floors all over the world, and rarely is the ocean floor actually flat on a scale that matters here, that is the scale which will affect any kind of recovery, and could affect acoustics. It may appear so from a distance - for example, in this area, the Bay of Bengal looks flat - but the closer you get, the more detail you see. Many areas, especially near coastlines and deltas, resemble the complex topography of a fluvial system, complete with sediment lobes, channels, and "floodplains", and look like giant rivers. Underwater landslides and turbidity currents flow off of "cliffs," often through underwater canyons, and bring sediment onto the abyssal plain. Currents can cause huge underwater ripples, or megadunes. Near areas without a clear sediment source, carbonate can accumulate to form huge platforms which in turn shed parts like crazy. And let's not forget icebergs, which drop huge blocks of sediment, boulders, rocks, and dirt, all into the ooze of the sea floor, where they mush the sediment in fascinating ways and then get buried.

In other parts of the deep ocean, sediment accumulation occurs from the "pelagic rain" which is a mixture of clay and plankton. Depending on the currents, nutrients, and temperature of the water, this rain can be mostly silica based plankton, calcareous plankton, some clay, or mostly clay (comprised of particles like volcanic ash, dust, and sometimes meteorite particles). And fish feces, which may turn into something else on the way down and once buried (if you see rocks that are completely green, like the Greensands of England, and it's not volcanic, it's proably full of a mineral called glauconite and indicates the presence of a lot of organisms that produced feces.) It can take years for a particle to reach the bottom of the ocean, and sediment accumulation rates can vary from millimeters to 2 centimeters every thousand years.

Not only that, all that happens and then gets buried and affect future accumulation. Faults may dictate accumulation and sediment flow, and then be buried themselves or still be active. And let's not forget our old friend erosion. And salt. Oh how buried salt affects the sea floor. It's all yummily complex.

In some areas, sediment accumulation is poor due to location (many parts of the Pacific Ocean, for example, where trenches along the edge trap a lot of sediment), lack of accumulation space (i.e. a basin) or oceanic currents, preserving much of the original sea floor topography from its birth. And let's be clear here: oceanic crust was born in fire, and it moves. It moves all over the place, inches a year sometimes. 20 million years ago it may have been near a continental plate and the recipient from the sediment from a river, and now it may be the middle of the ocean without any currents or pelagic rain, but carrying along on its seamounts a dirty white line called the Carbonate Compensation Depth (CCD), or "marine snow" from when it was close enough to something to support plankton...almost lonely, really.

And not only does oceanic crust move, it ages. (As does the water it carries - imagine how old some of the water in the deepest, quietest part of the ocean must be.) The oldest crust in the Pacific, aged from the Jurassic at 180 million years old, is almost at the end of its life (ocean crust is created, then destroyed, and then created again in what's called a Wilson Cycle, which lasts ~200 m.y.). As it ages, it may experience (near the edges of basins and topographic high spots) erosion and sediment accumulation as sea level goes up and down (never underestimate the amount of erosion that can occur during a sea level rise and fall).

So - this crust in this part of the world ranges from young to old - it ranges from ~40-81 million years old on the 90 East Ridge to mid Cretaceous near Australia @100 m.y. - and has been strongly affected by movement of Australia, India, and Antarctica. A sediment accumulation map of the area shows sediment depths of 0-500 meters once you leave the coastline of Australia, although that map is a little suspect because this area is very tectonically active and sediment accumulation may be less because of basalt build-up. The 90 East ridge - that large line extending north towards India - is a series of seamounts from the Indian plate passing over a hotspot (much like Hawaii) on its speedy path towards colliding with Asia. The Australia-Indian plates are (proposed to be) currently spreading apart and there are several fracture and baby spreading zones in the area, creating a complex topography of ridges and trenches, as well as submerged continental crust. One of those trench/ridge systems from a fracture looks like it runs right between the 2 currently known signals.

TL;DR: there's a lot of topography in this area.

Much of what we learned about the geology of the sea floor is from the 3 international Ocean Drilling Programs, a decades old project whose first ship, the Glomar Challenger, is often mistaken for the Glomar Explorer. The Glomar Explorer was a "marine research vessel" which had a cover story of exploring the ocean floor but really raised and recovered part of a Soviet submarine, to this day the deepest marine salvage operation ever completed. As of late 2013, the Glomar Explorer was working in...the Bay of Bengal.
posted by barchan at 8:57 PM on April 8 [260 favorites]


I think that needs to get side-barred.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 9:00 PM on April 8 [7 favorites]


It's an fpp within an fpp. Wow. Thanks, barchan.
posted by rtha at 9:04 PM on April 8 [2 favorites]


Great comments barchan and Seymour Zamboni.

I've only been down to 150m in a submersible but that was enough to give me both the willies and a powerful desire to keep going back down. I can barely fathom (heh) going to 5,000 metres.


This is an "amateur" analysis of
the detected pings which is really quite good and explains a lot about how one would differentiate the pings from background noise and/or marine mammals.
posted by Rumple at 9:14 PM on April 8 [1 favorite]


I was just reading a wired article from 2011 about the same thing turbid dahlia check it out.

Hell yeah I'm only three years behind Wired, my averages just went up.
posted by turbid dahlia at 9:35 PM on April 8


Seymour Zamboni, your work sounds amazing. But something I've always wondered about deep-sea submersibles (and, I guess, space ships): is there a secret hidden compartment with suicide pills in it? Not trying to lower the tone or anything, honestly.
posted by turbid dahlia at 9:37 PM on April 8 [1 favorite]


Hey barchan, thanks for that.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:40 PM on April 8


Thanks barchan and Zamboni. Two sidebar-worthy comments in one thread. It's cool, we don't have to put my buoyant flight recorder question up there.
posted by oneironaut at 10:04 PM on April 8 [4 favorites]


So there are drifts of fish poop hundreds of meters deep? This sounds lIke a valuable resource. Fertilizer. Or, in a million years, oil.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:29 PM on April 8


Great comment & links, barchan. I've read so many narratives much about the flat, featureless abysmal plain the Titanic rests on, I should have realized it is actually a little more complex than that.

Thanks for sharing Zamboni, I've been fascinated by deep sea submersibles since 1986.
posted by entropicamericana at 11:09 PM on April 8


I like that the last link in barchan's amazing comment said "Bay of Bengal" and linked to a page titled "Rig Data".
posted by benito.strauss at 11:36 PM on April 8


the further down i scrolled, the further my stomach dropped.

(i only have the most passing of acquaintances with those in the flight; KL is a small city, in a way, and my family has history with the airlines, but i don't want to overstate my connection. Still.)
posted by cendawanita at 1:15 AM on April 9


Sydney Morning Herald quoting Houston:
"It looks like the signals we picked up recently have been much weaker than the original signals we picked up ... we're either a long away from it or in my view more likely the batteries are starting to fade."

"By triangulating this data we will be able to come up with a much smaller search area under water," Mr Houston said.

"Time spent on the surface, we're covering six times more area than we would be able to do when we get under water. With the batteries due to fail shortly, we need to get as much positional data as we can."
posted by nangar at 1:30 AM on April 9


The search so far has been nothing like finding an eyelash on a playing field. It's been entirely like finding a theory bound landing strip on a large ocean.

The Kuala Lumpur think-tank now has a better idea of the plane's configuration on approach: an aerodynamic but plane-shattering phugoid long-spiral descent due to loss of fuelled lift, or a pilots' controlled wheels-up nose-high (gliding) approach teetering on stall speed at ditching -- for a less plane-shattering impact.

On scale the 7th arc looks more like the point of impact -- the plane would travel further from the time of fuel depletion than appears to be the case, making the (late) 6th arc -- 0011 UTC -- look more like the point of fuel exhaustion. Plane initiated pings?

My question still stands. Was ACARS switched on again after the plane crossed the 5th arc, ie: after 2240 UTC (which coincidently was just after the STA Beijing)?

Ocean Shield's data has likely just confirmed crime, not catastrophe. A pilot may well have left a message on the voice recorder for posterity.

I'll go away, now.
posted by de at 1:32 AM on April 9


Astro Awani has a video of JACC's April 9 press conference. JACC has a transcript.
posted by nangar at 3:20 AM on April 9


I think it's worth understanding the difference between an AUV and an ROV. Both will be used here, though in very different ways.

AUV: autonomous underwater vehicle. No tether; executes a pre-loaded mission plan. Carries a sidescan sonar, torpedo-shaped and can only move forward. No manipulators.

ROV: remotely operated vehicle. Tethered and joystick-controlled. Carries cameras and lighting. Roughly box-shaped, can hover, has manipulators.

"Autonomous ROV" is something of an oxymoron.

Here's what sidescan imagery looks like, versus bathymetry.
posted by olinerd at 3:51 AM on April 9 [2 favorites]


Or rather, for apples to apples feature comparison with the sidescan, here's what shipwrecks look like in bathymetry.
posted by olinerd at 3:59 AM on April 9 [2 favorites]


is there a secret hidden compartment with suicide pills in it?

The compartment that you sit in while on an Alvin dive is just a large titanium sphere, thick enough to withstand the crushing hydrostatic pressure on the seafloor. Apparently, if Alvin got stuck on the seafloor the sphere can be detached from the rest of the sub. Remember--the sphere is really a big beach ball filled with a bubble of air. So, once detached the sphere would begin a rapid and uncontrolled ascent to the surface. And I'm not sure if anybody has done the calculation but when the sphere hits the surface it could have enough speed to break the water surface and fly into the air before crashing back down onto the ocean. It is not clear if a human could survive the trip. So I guess suicide pills are not needed. Alvin has been diving more or less non stop since the 1960's and there has never been a loss of life.

And great comment barchan. That was an amazingly lucid and succinct compilation of seafloor geology.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 4:32 AM on April 9 [13 favorites]


A few quotes from the press conference:
Houston: The other thing about the bottom there, I'm informed, by experts, that there's a lot of silt down there. That could complicate the search because the silt on the bottom of the ocean can be very thick, and things disappear into it and it makes a visual search underwater very difficult.

Leavy: The other point I would make ... the silt cover on the bottom as well as potentially hiding the debris. Now that we have an analysis that shows there is silt down there, that's quite an absorbing material so we are at risk of a lot of the sound energy being absorbed by the silt rather than if for instance it was a rock sea bed, a lot of that would be reflected back up to the surface or towards the surface. So the fact that there's silt there has also hindered, to a certain extent, the sound path propagation.

Leavy: It's quite possible that there is currents down there which could have disturbed the debris and also as it was falling from the surface it would have dispersed over a fairly large area as well ... we don't have accurate sampling of the currents in that particular area. The indication we have that silt is on the seabed is taken from some core samples that were taken some years ago and 130 miles away from our current position by an oceanographic ship that are in a database that we can access. But that gives an indication of how little understanding we have of the detailed topography of the seabed. But the concept of having water movements and flows down there is one we need to take into account.
There was some stumbling in first few days of the hand-over of PR from AMSA to JACC, but JACC's last few press conferences have actually been really informative.
posted by nangar at 5:21 AM on April 9


five fresh fish -So there are drifts of fish poop hundreds of meters deep? This sounds lIke a valuable resource.

Related -whale poop is a vital part of ocean ecology.
posted by asok at 6:03 AM on April 9


Apparently, if Alvin got stuck on the seafloor the sphere can be detached from the rest of the sub. Remember--the sphere is really a big beach ball filled with a bubble of air. So, once detached the sphere would begin a rapid and uncontrolled ascent to the surface. And I'm not sure if anybody has done the calculation but when the sphere hits the surface it could have enough speed to break the water surface and fly into the air before crashing back down onto the ocean. It is not clear if a human could survive the trip. So I guess suicide pills are not needed.

New life goal: CATCH SOME SWEET AIR IN ALVIN.
posted by entropone at 6:06 AM on April 9 [4 favorites]


Metafilter: the further down i scrolled, the further my stomach dropped.
posted by mazola at 6:33 AM on April 9 [21 favorites]


So... no mention of an inverted Sears Tower?
posted by Going To Maine at 6:56 AM on April 9


If there is concern that wreckage has been submerged in silt, is there any way to use a giant metal detector? Or perhaps a huge magnet, like they use in junk yards? Probably silly questions, but they come to mind...
posted by PigAlien at 7:04 AM on April 9


Aluminum.
posted by Big_B at 7:14 AM on April 9 [1 favorite]


Well shucky darn.
posted by PigAlien at 7:24 AM on April 9 [1 favorite]


Hopefully the triangulation technique works to narrow down the search area. Seems like they heard the pings in the nick of time before the batteries failed.

is there any way to use a giant metal detector?

Handheld type metal detectors can definitely detect aluminum so I guess the question is: could a similar one be designed so that it could pick up a useful signal from far enough away? If it requires going right over the surface, then sonar might work better.
posted by exogenous at 7:39 AM on April 9


Also, any reason why, in this day and age, cockpit recordings can't be beamed directly to a satellite or something? Get that black box shit into the cloud already.

There's already ACARS, but that's more for diagnostics and error reporting.
posted by ymgve at 7:50 AM on April 9


A map showing locations of ping detections by Ocean Shield. (Another map)
posted by nangar at 7:54 AM on April 9


Also, any reason why, in this day and age, cockpit recordings can't be beamed directly to a satellite or something? Get that black box shit into the cloud already

This was brought up in the other thread, and roundly--in some cases offensively and condescendingly--refuted.

Until an actual expert stepped in and said it was totally and completely possible and the only impediment is cost.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:54 AM on April 9 [3 favorites]


Aw, thanks everyone.

This whole search has kind of awed me: we've reached from outer space to the bottom of the ocean to find this plane. We're using one of our oldest forms of transportation (boats) to find one of our newest. We're using something as "simple" as sound to find a box that has managed to survive a crash and pressures possibly up to ~7,000 PSI. And yet, in the end, the location of the plane is in the most unknown place on earth, and the challenges so far have been relatively "easy" compared to the challenges that could be ahead for recovering any part of the plane.
posted by barchan at 7:55 AM on April 9 [14 favorites]


My bet would be the only thing(s) they'll be recovering are the black box and CVR.

If the plane is down there, I suspect it'll be left as a memorial. It seems like the only reasonable thing to do.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:00 AM on April 9


It seems like the only reasonable thing to do.

...except for the fact that if they find any human remains, the families might want to bury them, no?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:01 AM on April 9


Titanic.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:07 AM on April 9


ffm, I'm not sure what you mean by that. Just because there weren't human remains found with the Titanic when it was discovered 73 years after sinking doesn't mean they wouldn't find human remains with MH370 a month or so after its disappearance.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:11 AM on April 9


There have got to be human remains on Titanic.

Besides, what's the cost of this month long search anyway? What would be the cost of raising a plane (or chunks of) from the seafloor?

This needs to be met with a pragmatic response, and that is: sorry, there is just no feasible way to do this that won't cost a bajillion dollars.

Drop a beautiful marker stone, maybe connected to a buoy at surface level, with a memorial plaque. Anything else would be an egregious waste of time and money.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:14 AM on April 9


There have got to be human remains on Titanic.

I think they do last for quite a long time in the cold and pressure, with few (none?) aerobic bacteria.
posted by thelonius at 8:16 AM on April 9


I worry about the coverage of this and our discussion. The infographics, Internet analysis and CNN coverage seem to transform a terrible event into a kind of game where we play at solving the mystery. Speculation here on MeFi and other sites about coordinates, motives, flight paths and causes isn't part of the investigation. The spotters are not checking our comments for leads. I think that we should step back and consider the human suffering and grief the core of this event. Should we let our fascination go? Let the investigators work and families mourn.
posted by humanfont at 8:25 AM on April 9 [10 favorites]


I think they do last for quite a long time in the cold and pressure, with few (none?) aerobic bacteria.

Yes, that's the genesis of the line from "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" about 'Superior, they said, never gives up her dead.' The lack of bacterial action means you don't get bloat, and the corpses don't float, and only very slowly decay.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:28 AM on April 9 [2 favorites]


If the plane is down there, I suspect it'll be left as a memorial. It seems like the only reasonable thing to do.

Actually, if at all possible, they'll try to bring up as much of the plane as they can, with the priorities being the cockpit and the engines.

They can get an amazing amount of info from them. One thing that the NTSB and AAIC did was research into what happens to powered on lamps and switches in crashes, so by getting the cockpit -- even in fragments -- now they can tell exactly what lamps were lit and what position various switches were in.
posted by eriko at 8:30 AM on April 9 [2 favorites]


"Oh! ye whose dead lie buried beneath the green grass; who standing among flowers can say—here, HERE lies my beloved; ye know not the desolation that broods in bosoms like these. What bitter blanks in those black-bordered marbles which cover no ashes! What despair in those immovable inscriptions! What deadly voids and unbidden infidelities in the lines that seem to gnaw upon all Faith, and refuse resurrections to the beings who have placelessly perished without a grave. As well might those tablets stand in the cave of Elephanta as here."

Recovering human remains for the benefit of the families has historically been a huge priority. Forget money -- people have, rightly or wrongly, given their lives to recover bodies. This is unlikely to be the year where everybody suddenly decides it doesn't matter.

In this case, of course, it may be totally impossible without really unconscionable risk of life. We'll see.
posted by ostro at 8:32 AM on April 9 [3 favorites]


Get that black box shit into my butt already

Oh Cloud to Butt browser plugin, you never fail to bring me an unexpected chuckle.
posted by Fezboy! at 8:41 AM on April 9 [15 favorites]


This image lists the pieces of AF 447 that were brought to the surface. Glancing over the list it's pretty clear that they were all pieces that could have significant investigative value rather than a general recovery of aircraft material. There's no airframe to speak of remaining; it's not a K-129-like scenario.
posted by kiltedtaco at 9:52 AM on April 9 [6 favorites]


Wow, kiltedtaco, that image is fascinating and disturbing. Amazing how they could map out all the wreckage like that and pinpoint such tiny objects at such a depth, and kind of interesting that the plane could have disintegrated so entirely, and yet the pieces still be so close in proximity.
posted by PigAlien at 10:01 AM on April 9 [1 favorite]


"There have got to be human remains on Titanic."
Actually there are none. Bodies don't last long in the deep ocean. In the deep ocean any source of food/energy is vitally important so it gets picked clean very quickly. Even a carcass as big as a whale is gone within a couple years. And even the bones don't last in deep water, if you're below the CCD (mentioned earlier by barchan). Below that, the water can readily absorb calcium carbonate, and bones dissolve fairly quickly. When I was watching ROV footage of the first look at the HMAS Sydney wreck (in about 2500m of water), we came across a whole bunch of shoes. Some folks thought it must have come from some shoe locker. But all the shoes came in 2s, a right and a left. We realized we were seeing all that was left of the fallen sailors; their treated leather shoes.
I don't mean to be too grim here. But bodies don't last for long periods in deep water.
posted by Kaigiron at 10:16 AM on April 9 [22 favorites]


What would be the cost of raising a plane (or chunks of) from the seafloor?

The aircraft likely disintegrated when it hit the ocean, and the currents would have scattered the various bits and pieces over a wide area of deep ocean.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:33 AM on April 9


"The aircraft likely disintegrated when it hit the ocean, and the currents would have scattered the various bits and pieces over a wide area of deep ocean."
Actually you would expect the pieces to be in a fairly tight debris field. See the image above that kiltedtaco linked to from AF447. The currents aren't going to take the pieces that far apart while dropping to the sea floor. They'll spread apart, sure. But they should still be within one relatively well defined debris field.
And even if it's expensive, I'm quite sure they will recover as many vital pieces as they can for an investigation. They picked up many many pieces of AF447, and that was also in deep water.
posted by Kaigiron at 10:39 AM on April 9


The image shows only a tight debris field; I sincerely doubt it purports to show all the debris. It does not prove that there is no debris outside this field.
posted by achrise at 11:20 AM on April 9


The same phenomenon of empty footwear was noted at the Titanic wreck site as well: here's a pair of empty boots for example, with the body dissolved out of them.
posted by Rumple at 11:23 AM on April 9


Kaigiron, do you have a ballpark sense of how long it would take a plane to fall to the ocean floor at that depth?
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:25 AM on April 9


Also there are evocative pictues of Air France 447's Flight Data Recorder and Cockpit Voice Recorder just lying on top of the benthic splooge. They had been ripped away from their housings and were lying free and clear. If the MH370 ones are still attached to the airframe then recovery could be quite a bit more challenging.

Also: Whale Fall.
posted by Rumple at 11:31 AM on April 9 [2 favorites]


That's a tough question Lobstermitten. It depends on how big each piece is and how dense it is. So each piece is going to have it's own terminal velocity. A total ballpark guess for a random piece I would put at around 20 minutes in 4000m of water.
Also realize that.the pieaces falling are all experiencing essentially the same currents.
I've seen lots of wrecks, and they always have fairly well defined debris fields.
posted by Kaigiron at 12:10 PM on April 9 [4 favorites]


> The aircraft likely disintegrated when it hit the ocean

The aircraft is as likely to have a near intact fuselage after a competent powered ditching on a calm sea. It's entered the water somewhere along arc 7, not necessarily without fuel. Angus Houston equivocated (without notes):
... I would also highlight to you the satellite handshake calculation number seven. That was the handshake which was a partial ping, where the experts in Kuala Lumpur assess that the aircraft might have—plane engines might have flamed out, and it's probably significant in terms of the end of powered flight.
That's consistent with a powered ditching of a perfectly good aircraft.
posted by de at 12:11 PM on April 9


The fact that there was no ELT signal at the time of the plane hitting the water is consistent with previous catastrophic impacts with the water where the aircraft ELT was either destroyed or disconnected from its antenna. This would be less likely to happen with a controlled landing (unless there is a way to disable the ELT in-flight).
posted by cardboard at 12:30 PM on April 9 [1 favorite]


> The same phenomenon of empty footwear was noted at the Titanic wreck site as well: here's a pair of empty boots for example, with the body dissolved out of them.

There is also the recent salish sea feet in shoes washing up on shore thing. With modern foam shoes that are bouyant, once enough of the body breaks down, they detach (sometimes with the feet still inside) and wash ashore.
posted by mrzarquon at 1:17 PM on April 9


benthic splooge

band/blog name.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 1:55 PM on April 9 [4 favorites]


Also there are evocative pictues of Air France 447's Flight Data Recorder and Cockpit Voice Recorder just lying on top of the benthic splooge. They had been ripped away from their housings and were lying free and clear. If the MH370 ones are still attached to the airframe then recovery could be quite a bit more challenging.

Well that would mean there are bigger pieces to pick up sure, but those bigger pieces are also easier to spot on your scanning sonar. So if the black boxes are still attached to something you're likely to find them quicker, without having to search as many of the small pieces.
Having bigger/heavier pieces to pick up does mean you can't just bring it up in the grip of the manipulator arm, but you can attach a line to it and lift it into a basket. I recently watched the ROV guys do this to many heavy pieces of F-1 rocket engines in deep water off of Florida. They do have to send down a basket first, but that's pretty standard procedure for recovery ops. The only issue is how much weight can the crane on your vessel handle. But they certainly should be prepared to handle big, heavy pieces of debris.
posted by Kaigiron at 3:37 PM on April 9


I think that we should step back and consider the human suffering and grief the core of this event. Should we let our fascination go? Let the investigators work and families mourn.

Speculating on a website nobody's checking isn't preventing the investigators or the families from doing anything.

It's entirely possible to be completely empathetic to the tragic loss, and completely fascinated at how a huge airplane can flat out disappear and potentially end up in one of the least searchable places in the world. It's not one or the other. We're complex humans capable of many simultaneous responses at once.
posted by rutabega at 5:40 PM on April 9 [23 favorites]


entropone: "New life goal: CATCH SOME SWEET AIR IN ALVIN."

There's a great image on Wikipedia of your sweet ride.
posted by barnacles at 11:20 PM on April 9 [1 favorite]


That deep water salvage operation barchan mentions is pretty mind boggling:
Project Azorian was one of the most complex, expensive, and secretive intelligence operations of the Cold War at a cost of about $800 million ($3.8 billion in 2014 dollars)

Paranoia is an expensive business!
posted by asok at 2:08 AM on April 10 [1 favorite]


If there is concern that wreckage has been submerged in silt, is there any way to use a giant metal detector? Or perhaps a huge magnet, like they use in junk yards? Probably silly questions, but they come to mind...

Magnetic anomaly detectors are used to find submarines and work even on submarines with titanium hulls due to the iron in their reactors, engines, etc, I'm not sure if there's enough ferromagnetic material on an airplane though, given the weight constraints that aircraft designers have to deal with.
posted by atrazine at 2:43 AM on April 10 [1 favorite]


They are saying they've detected the ping again. Shouldn't the pinger have run out of juice some time ago?
posted by Justinian at 3:15 AM on April 10


Justinian, I think it's like a battery in a flashlight... it doesn't just suddenly cut off, it slowly dies out and may occasionally manage a little power surge on its way out. The 30 day cutoff is what the manufacturer specifies for full power.
posted by olinerd at 3:56 AM on April 10


quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon: "benthic splooge

band/blog name.
"

Also available: Pelagic Ooze
posted by Big_B at 9:02 AM on April 10


Saw a tweet that the Australian PM is going to have another presser only a short time after the one they just had. Says 9 News Perth.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:42 PM on April 10


Aus PM, Tony Abbott, is in China trying to lock in an elusive free market agreement; as we like to say in Australia he's "making hay while the sun shines." o_O

He'll make a further announcement after he and Xi have another tête-à-tête (apparently).

It's this: "They're confident the (four) signals are from the black box; and the underwater search area is significantly narrowed."

Angus Houston issued a statement not long after Abbott: no major breakthrough, and yesterday's sonobuoy ping (the fifth ping) was not significant.

No-one's sure of substance when it comes to Abbott. He's visiting China with his Frank Sinatra pants on.
posted by de at 10:32 PM on April 10


He's visiting China with his Frank Sinatra pants on.

You're gonna have to explain that one.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:58 AM on April 11 [4 favorites]


Yup
posted by bobloblaw at 4:00 PM on April 11


They're ... heavily padded?

(I'm guessing wildly here.)
posted by McCoy Pauley at 8:23 PM on April 11 [1 favorite]


McCoy Pauley: "They're ... heavily padded?

(I'm guessing wildly here.)
"

I was thinking the padding might be more in the front. You know, like that provided by a sock. Anyway, let's hope we get some good news on MH370 soon.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 5:45 PM on April 13


He's visiting China with his Frank Sinatra pants on.

Tried to find a full length picture of a middle-aged Sinatra in his slim leg, high cuff, trousers and failed. Abbott is still being groomed and his image makers have got his pants about right. That's all.

· He's looking more like the leader of the pack.
· Japan, Korea and China fell for him.
· He's generally scripted these days to alleviate long term foot-in-mouth disease.
· When MH370 flew down the southern corridor it flew right up Abbott's alley.
</aside>

Houston is giving a presser right now: Ocean floor search is to commence as soon as possible.
posted by de at 9:08 PM on April 13


April 14 JACC press conference transcript, excerpts:
Each mission conducted by the Bluefin-21 will take a minimum of 24 hours to complete. It will take the Autonomous Underwater Vehicle two hours to get down to the bottom of the ocean. It will then be on task for 16 hours. It will then take two hours to return to the surface and four hours to download and analyse the data collected. The first mission will see Bluefin-21 cover an area of approximately five kilometres by eight kilometres, an area of 40 square kilometres.

In another development, I can report Ocean Shield detected an oil slick yesterday evening in her current search area ... it will be a number of days before it can be landed ashore and conclusively tested.

The air and surface search for floating material will be completed in the next two to three days in the area where the aircraft most likely entered the water.

The chances of any floating material being recovered have greatly diminished and it will be appropriate to consult with Australia's partners to decide the way ahead later this week.

From the Q & A:

... we have got one vehicle and we go mission for mission for mission, we will adapt the search area depending on what we find on the bottom of the ocean. So over time, each time the vehicle goes down, it will have a defined search area ... what we do is we start from the best datum and we work outwards from there.

And it's really up to the people on the spot to determine where the best area is to go next ... We start where we think the best location is, that's the datum for the start of the search and we go outwards from there.
posted by nangar at 4:05 AM on April 14


Search is as good as over. Now it's recovery while stuff just surfaces.

Media release 15 April -- am

After completing around six hours of its mission, Bluefin-21 exceeded its operating depth limit of 4,500 metres and its built in safety feature returned it to the surface.

[...]

Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston (Ret'd), will provide further updates if, and when, more information becomes available.

Don't expect we'll hear much.

All the maths is in and was spot on. It led to beacons pinging. In the grand scheme of things how long can a ditched and damaged plane float and drift before sinking? A wildstorm on a sandybeach will confirm what's known.

Roll on recovery.
posted by de at 2:48 AM on April 15


JACC said some of the seafloor was too deep for Bluefin-21 to search, not that they'd found anything. No indication that we're close to the recovery phase.

Bluefin-21 moves at half a kilometer per hour; it has to skip areas that are too deep. This isn't going to be fast.

(I guess a smallish area of only roughly mapped seabed will end up being mapped really thoroughly as a result of the search.)
posted by nangar at 8:57 AM on April 15 [1 favorite]


Geopolitical squabbling at its finest:

China’s Actions in Hunt for Jet Are Seen as Hurting as Much as Helping

“According to the state propaganda, they are supposed to have sent the best they could muster, because it’s national prestige at stake, and they face a lot of pressure from the victims’ families,” Mr. Lam said. “In spite of all the hoopla over China building an advanced military, they seem to have not much to show in this operation.”

But:

“The scope, scale and expense of Chinese operations exceeds anything that China has undertaken to date,” said Jonathan D. Pollack, senior fellow in foreign policy at the Brookings Institution. “The Chinese are at least as intent on achieving definitive results as anyone else.”

“It’s possible that this has led some Chinese personnel to reach premature judgments based on limited or inconclusive observations,” Mr. Pollack said. “But this hardly seems unique to China.”

posted by RedOrGreen at 9:13 AM on April 15


I'm not a conspiracy guy at all, and I suspect there's a lot of tinfoil woo going on at this site, but check this out.

If true, it's chilling. The one thing that doesn't ring true at all is someone getting a modern voice-recognition capable smartphone up their ass (and out again). Not to mention having it still be functional.

But as I understand it (and correct me if I'm wrong), it really is exceedingly difficult to modify EXIF data.

So if true, the US gov't is letting itself and other governments spend gobs and gobs and gobs of money trying to find something that isn't there.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:11 AM on April 15


hoax
posted by exogenous at 10:39 AM on April 15 [1 favorite]


Agreed, hoax.
posted by caphector at 11:48 AM on April 15


One of the world's foremost wreck hunters believes searchers have found the crash site of the missing Malaysia Airlines jet, and recovering the plane's black boxes is inevitable.

"I think essentially they have found the wreckage site," the director of the UK-based Bluewater Recoveries, David Mearns, told 7.30.

posted by de at 12:10 PM on April 15


hoax -
I enjoy nutter web sites like freedomoutpost, well, for the lulz, of course, and so it is very especially gratifying to find them repeating stuff that originated on 4chan. hid his iphone up his butt - emoticons fail.
posted by Abinadab at 1:14 PM on April 15


But as I understand it (and correct me if I'm wrong), it really is exceedingly difficult to modify EXIF data.

EXIF is trivial to modify.

It is difficult to edit a digital photograph without leaving traces that can be detected via error-level analysis. Editing the metadata is easy, however.
posted by Kadin2048 at 3:35 PM on April 15 [2 favorites]


EXIF is trivial to modify.

And readily edited with tools built in to most operating systems. (The site says "SAVE IT TO YOUR DESKTOP. RIGHT CLICK IT. SELECT PROPERTIES. CLICK DETAILS, THAT REVEALS THE EXIF." That's conveniently the same screen to be on to edit the EXIF data)

Or with a text editor, for that matter. It's just text stored in the image file.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 7:13 AM on April 16 [1 favorite]


Fascinating. Between Doppler frequency offsets and EXIF returns, you can't go wrong with a silent darkroom.


Media Release
17 April 2014—am

posted by de at 5:44 PM on April 16


Catching up after a couple weeks mostly offline...

CNN reporting: The plane deviated from its planned route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing by turning leftward over water while it was still inside Vietnamese airspace, a senior Malaysian aviation source told CNN's Nic Robertson.

The aircraft then climbed to 39,000 feet, just short of the Boeing 777-200ER's 41,000 feet safe operating limit, and maintained that altitude for about 20 minutes over the Malaysian Peninsula before beginning to descend, the source said.


CNN, FWIW, but this is different from the original low-level-avoid-radar flight west over the peninsula theory. Twenty minutes would also exhaust the passenger oxygen system, I believe.

I also read last month that it is very difficult to determine altitude from radar sightings; I wonder what changed.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 3:47 PM on April 18


So the idea is that the pilot or copilot depressurized the cabin and climbed to 40,000 feet to kill all the passengers, then flew south over open ocean hoping the plane would never be found? It fits the facts but I still have a problem with motive. What's the logic behind wanted to completely disappear?

Under this scenario the guy at the controls would probably "land" on the ocean in a controlled descent rather than slamming into it after exhausting the fuel supply. The plane might still break up but there would be a lot fewer pieces and they would be a lot bigger which would probably mean they mostly sank.

Of course some people were postulating all of the above like a week after the plane disappeared so essentially we've learned nothing meaningful in a month.
posted by Justinian at 6:07 PM on April 18


I just stumbled on this thread from last summer today. It's about the search for Amelia Earhart's plane, and the discussion is all about how hard it would be for a plane to disappear with today's technology. (Maybe this was linked to earlier or in the past 370 thread; if so, I missed it.) I thought it was interesting enough to share and a reminder of how extraordinary the circumstances had to be to lose this plane.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:29 PM on April 18 [1 favorite]


how extraordinary the circumstances had to be to lose this plane

That's a great point. For a while people were talking as if we really needed another mandatory black box on airliners (constantly transmitting position) to avoid this sort of thing. But how many times have flights been delayed or cancelled because some widget mandated by regulation stopped working? It happens a lot. Missed births, missed last goodbyes, missed weddings, graduations, funerals, probably even lives lost due to organ transplants being late. And higher costs to keep the stuff running. And the gadgetry wouldn't have saved any lives, even here.
posted by exogenous at 8:17 PM on April 18


I wonder: if this is a deliberate human act (assuming an intentional loss at sea in a hugely remote place with the intention of the plane never being found, or, perhaps, no one even having a clue about what happened to it), could the motivation have nothing to do with the plane itself, but instead giving a black eye to a government, organization or company? Can/could a group be made to look so incompetent that they lose popular support, power or are forced out as a player in certain circles?

This could be public ("x government will be made to look so foolish they will be voted out" or "MA will go bankrupt from the bad publicity") or private ("agency x will be shown to be incompetent which will clear the way for my agency y to take over those responsibilities").

There is an endless circle of "black helicopter" conspiracy scenarios in this idea (in fact it's mostly made of them), and it's unlikely anyway, but I find it an interesting conjecture.
posted by maxwelton at 12:20 PM on April 19


maxwelton: There was some speculation early on that the crash had something to do with Anwar Ibrahim (former Deputy Prime Minister ousted after supposed sodomy charges who is now the leader of the Opposition Coalition) given that the pilot is an Anwar supporter and that they're very very distantly related.

The Malaysian Opposition isn't exactly a fringe group, however: plenty of Malaysians have been fighting electoral fraud for some time and the Opposition gained significant wins in the 2008 elections, while the Ruling party lost their 2/3rds majority for the first time since 1969 (notable for sparking the May 13 riots, whose repercussions are still felt even now).

It seems highly unlikely that the crash would be directly political, particularly as a move from the Opposition coalition: it would be highly inefficient to do so, since they already have popular support. The responses from the Malaysian Government have not really endeared anyone to them but I would be very surprised if this dramatically affected election results, given that they just had elections last year.

It is maybe slightly possible that the crash could have been motivated by a different political motive altogether: the last major Malaysian Airlines incident was a hijacking, though no motive was ever discovered.

Malaysia Airlines has been in financial trouble for some time, but from what I can tell no one has any strong negative feelings about the airline itself.

For what it's worth, reports are saying that Anwar thinks the Government is covering up information. (I haven't seen the video so I don't know if they're reporting his words faithfully, but I'm already GRRARGHING at how they're reporting that Anwar knew the pilot personally when it was already established that they didn't know each other super well.)
posted by divabat at 1:20 PM on April 19


Guardian:

"The underwater search for the flight recorders from the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 could be completed in five to seven days, Australian officials said on Saturday."

"The underwater search has been narrowed to a circular area with a radius of 10km (6.2 miles) around the location from which one of four pings believed to have come from the recorders was detected on 8 April, officials said."

"Officials did not indicate whether they were confident this search area would yield new information about the flight, nor did they say what steps they would take if nothing was found."
posted by travelwithcats at 5:02 PM on April 19


... nor did they say what steps they would take if nothing was found.

Tony Abbott made the announcement in the Wall Street Journal (of all places) just after Bluefin-21's first two missions were cut short. The US Navy had offered some criticism, apparently, about one Bluefin-21 being up to the task.

The underwater search area was then drastically reduced, JACC abruptly announcing in a media update:
This represents the best lead we have in relation to missing flight MH370 and where the current underwater search efforts are being pursued to their completion so we can either confirm or discount the area as the final resting place of MH370.
Speculation is the location and recovery of the black-box will be the task of private contractors at the expense of Malaysia, China and the US.

The joint government SAR effort is coming to a close. It was surprising the aerial search continued beyond Bluefin-21's deployment. It was due to stop days back. Not that easy, I guess.
posted by de at 8:00 PM on April 19


Just saw on Twitter that MH192 from KL to Bangalore turned back and made a successful emergency landing in KL after their landing gear malfunctioned upon takeoff.
posted by divabat at 11:14 AM on April 20


From the JACC press release today:

Bluefin-21 has searched approximately 50 per cent of the focused underwater search area to date.

The focused underwater search area is defined as a circle of 10km radius around the second Towed Pinger Locator detection which occurred on 8 April.

posted by TWinbrook8 at 1:58 PM on April 20


The unmanned submersible scouring the ocean floor for wreckage from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 is nearing the end of its underwater search, having covered 80 percent of an area authorities believe to be the most likely resting place of the plane and its 239 passengers.
[...]
So far, no debris that can be identified as linked to the aircraft has been found and the Bluefin has not recorded any data that shows promise in finding any wreckage.
[...]
The Australian authorities believe the plane could be sitting in silt, as much as 15,000 feet down into the ocean — a depth that has already tested the capabilities of the Bluefin-21.

“The search will continue,” the agency said in an email Tuesday.
posted by RedOrGreen at 8:56 AM on April 22


JACC media release: Unidentified material washed ashore.
posted by de at 4:29 AM on April 23


Any further information will be made available if, and when, it becomes available.

Hmm.
posted by Quilford at 6:30 AM on April 23 [1 favorite]


"The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) is examining the photographs of the material to determine whether further physical analysis is required and if there is any relevance to the search of missing flight MH370," the JACC said in a statement.

"The ATSB has also provided the photographs to the Malaysian investigation team."

ATSB chief commissioner Martin Dolan played down the find.

"It's sufficiently interesting for us to take a look at the photographs," Mr Dolan told CNN.

"The more we look at it, the less excited we get."

He said the debris appeared to be sheet metal with rivets.

posted by RedOrGreen at 12:37 PM on April 23


Metafilter: the more we look at it, the less excited we get
posted by Flashman at 6:05 PM on April 23 [2 favorites]


As of today, the Bluefin-21 AUV has completed 95% of the search area.

I expect they'll announce that private contractors will be assuming control of the search soon.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 8:22 AM on April 25


What will CNN fill 23 hours 52 minutes of their day with if the search fails?
posted by Justinian at 2:19 PM on April 25 [1 favorite]


A racist rancher apparently
posted by mrzarquon at 2:51 PM on April 25 [1 favorite]


Mahathir weighs in.

"I am upset because they are blaming the wrong people. The loss of the plane is due to the makers Boeing...Boeing must accept responsibility for building an aircraft that can disappear in mid-air so completely"

Asshole.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 10:32 AM on April 26 [4 favorites]


I am really hoping that's a misquote, because WTF
posted by divabat at 10:44 AM on April 26 [1 favorite]


Oh no, it's his website and he really said it and other gems such as:

"It is standard practice that when a plane crashes, a team of experts would arrive at the scene soonest so as to find the cause of the crash. Boeing and the authorities in the manufacturing country should be looking out for the plane. Maybe the plane type should be grounded. But Boeing has shown no interest and had said practically nothing."

and

"MAS is not at fault, lax security or not. MAS flew a plane fully expecting it to perform the task. But the plane has somehow behaved differently. Who is responsible? Not MAS but certainly the makers of the plane"

[my bf]
posted by TWinbrook8 at 7:33 AM on April 27


Mahathir has always shown questionable judgement and an ability to blame anyone if it can deflect away from UMNO and their policies. This is just the latest in questionable statements.
posted by arcticseal at 8:14 AM on April 27


The ignorance is extraordinary with this one.
posted by bobloblaw at 7:32 PM on April 27


Exploration company believes it may have found MH370
An Adelaide-based exploration company believes it may have located the wreckage of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, 5000km away from where authorities have been looking.

The company, GeoResonance, says its research has identified elements on the ocean floor consistent with material from a plane.Supporting evidence shows some kind of blobby scan (maybe 5x5 pixels blown way up) overlaid with a picture of an airplane. Looks more like the virgin Mary to me. Meanwhile, slashdot is generally skeptical, but if you need another dose of conspiracy theory about the MH370 disappearance, feel free to drop in to that thread.
posted by jepler at 6:24 PM on April 28 [1 favorite]


The plane! The plane!
Remember that?
posted by de at 7:39 PM on April 28


I found an interesting website today--they are pissing themselves laughing over the GeoResonance claim btw--but one of the other discussions on MH370 had a photo of the Air France debris field (scroll down 3/4ths of the page to the b/w photo in post #789) which gives you an indication of what MH370 might look like.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 1:00 PM on April 30 [1 favorite]


Here is the Preliminary Report by the Ministry of Transport.

Timeline of first 5 hours. Discouraging reading, but then I've never read any other similar timelines so maybe slow reaction times are not so unusual.

Maps showing possible routes in the southern arc and search areas.

And some wanker at the Washington Post, getting reprinted in the Malaysian Insider:
It is time for others to follow or get out of the way. The Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 investigation has been floundering for too long. Republicans should urge the president to inform the world that the United States is assuming the lead role in the investigation, search, recovery and final report... At the end of it all, we should send Malaysia the bill. If they don’t pay, we can impose trade sanctions until we are made whole.
Synopsis of Preliminary Report by the Telegraph
posted by TWinbrook8 at 9:20 AM on May 1 [1 favorite]


TWinbrook8: "And some wanker"

Wanker is right. Christ, what an asshole.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 11:36 PM on May 1


Anybody still think this plane is gonna be found in the next, say, decade?
posted by Justinian at 12:39 PM on May 6


Guardian: "MH370: satellite data will be rechecked and search on ocean floor widened"

Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, said: “We've got to this stage of the process where it's very sensible to go back and have a look at all of the data that's been gathered, all of the analysis that's been done, and make sure that there are no flaws in that.”

Emphasis mine
posted by travelwithcats at 12:47 PM on May 6


Yes, I think it will be found. If not by a joint governmental task force, then a consortium of Bob Ballard/James Cameron types.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 4:20 PM on May 6


« Older Let It Go - The Remix...  |  Just over a month out from the... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments