Debris Spotted In The Search For MH370: Here's What We've Learned

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The discovery on satellite images of two large objects floating in the southern Indian Ocean, 2,500km from Perth, is “probably the best lead” in the search for the Malaysia Airlines jet that went missing on March 8, Australian officials say.

Officials are remaining cautious but the potential breakthrough has triggered a huge amount of resources being directed to the scene, with five search aircraft involved, a merchant ship checking the area, a Navy ship en route, and commercial satellites being retasked to focus on the area where the debris was spotted.

Here’s a summary of what we just learned in the press conference.

  • Two objects, one 24m in size, have been spotted by satellites
  • One US Navy aircraft and an Australian P-3 Orion are on the scene now, and three more planes are on the way from Perth, four hours’ flying time away. A merchant ship is also in the area
  • A RAAF Hercules will drop buoys into the water around the area to help assess the currents
  • Weather conditions are moderate, but visibility is poor which may hamper the search
  • More imagery is expected soon, with commercial satellites being redirected to the area

Typical shipping containers are 12m long, half the size of the 24m object spotted. There’s a full round-up of today’s developments here. Below is our coverage of the press conference as it unfolded.

(Times below are AEDT)

15.45: Commandant John McGarry from the Navy says they are working to release images to the media but they’re not available just yet.

15.43: The experience is that there can be debris in the ocean that can fall off cargo ships. Young adds, however, that the size of the objects “makes them worth looking at”.

He also describes the satellite image as showing “a blob” which is assessed as being around 24 metres in size. It’s unclear if it’s 24m square, or 24m long.

15.41: John Young from AMSA describes the debris as “a lead, it is probably the best lead we have right now”. But they remain cautious about drawing conclusions.

15.38: The site is 2,500km south-west of Perth. While there is a US Poseidon at the scene now, other aircraft leaving Western Australia now will start reaching the search area in around three hours.

This site is four hours’ flying time from Perth and allows the P-3 Orions to stay in the area for around two hours.

15.35: Objects of a “reasonable size” and “probably awash with water, bobbing up and down out of the water”. They are, however, “indistinct”.

The largest image is assessed as being 24m.

“The images were captured by satellite — they might not be related to the aircraft. The assessment of these images was provided by the Australian Geospacial Intelligence Organisation.”

15.32: John Young from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority says a US Navy Poseidon aircraft should be on the site now.

An Australian Orion should be on scene at 6pm this evening. An Australian C-130 is being sent to drop data marker bouys which will provide information about water movement, to assist in current modelling.

John Young from the AMSA says further images are expected soon after commercial satellites were redirected.

Weather conditions are good but there is poor visibility in the search area.

**

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority will hold a briefing shortly with details on the debris spotted by satellites in the search for the missing Malaysian Airlines passenger jet.

A Royal Australian Air Force P-3 Orion is over the area now looking for two objects, which Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott described as “new and credible information” in a statement to Parliament a short time ago.

The search area is in the southern Indian Ocean in the southernmost area where the jet could have reached if it had flown for six or seven hours after its last contact with air traffic control on March 8.

Of course it may also come to nothing, but this is a promising lead. We’ll have the details from the press conference here as they emerge.

This post is being updated live. Refresh for updates.

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