Search aircraft and ships are investigating two objects
floating in the southern Indian Ocean off Australia that
could be debris from a Malaysian jetliner missing for 12 days
with 239 people on board.
Australian officials said the objects were spotted by
satellite in one of the remotest parts of the globe, around
2500km southwest of Perth in the vast oceans between
Australia, southern Africa and Antarctica.
The larger of the objects measured up to 24 metres long and
appeared to be floating on water several thousand metres
deep, they said.
"It's credible enough to divert the research to this area on
the basis it provides a promising lead to what might be
wreckage from the debris field," Royal Australian Air Force
Air Commodore John McGarry told a news conference in
No confirmed wreckage from Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 has
been found since it vanished from air traffic control screens
off Malaysia's east coast early on March 8, less than an hour
after taking off from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing.
"I can confirm we have a new lead," Malaysian Transport
Minister Hishammuddin Hussein told reporters in Kuala Lumpur,
where the investigation into the missing airliner is based.
Another official in Malaysia said investigators were "hopeful
but cautious" about the Australian discovery.
The fate of Flight MH370 has been baffling aviation experts
for nearly two weeks.
Investigators believe that someone with detailed knowledge of
both the Boeing 777-200ER and commercial aviation navigation
switched off the plane's communications systems before
diverting it thousands of miles off its scheduled course.
Exhaustive background checks of the passengers and crew
aboard have not yielded anything that might explain why.
An Australian air force AP-3C Orion plane was already at the
scene, and more aircraft were on the way, John Young, general
manager of the emergency response division of Australian
Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), told the news conference in
A merchant ship diverted for the task was due to arrive in a
few hours, he said. A Royal Australian Navy ship equipped to
recover any objects was also en route, but was still "some
China, whose citizens made up about two-thirds of the
passengers on board the flight, said it was also sending
ships to the area of the sighting, but it was not clear how
long it would take for the vessels to reach the scene.
The huge potential breakthrough in an investigation that had
appeared to be running out of leads was revealed by
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who told parliament
the objects had been located with satellite imagery.
"New and credible information has come to light in relation
to the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in the
southern Indian Ocean," Abbott said.
He added that he had already spoken with his Malaysian
counterpart, Najib Razak, and cautioned that the objects had
yet to be identified.
"The task of locating these objects will be extremely
difficult and it may turn out they are not related to the
search for MH370," Abbott said.
Young, the Australian official, said it could be some days
before authorities have anything to report and added that
poor visibility reported in the area could hamper the search.
"It's probably the best lead we have right now but we have to
get there, find them, see them, assess them, to know whether
it's really meaningful or not," he said.
The dimensions given are consistent with at least one of the
objects possibly being the major part of a 777-200ER wing,
which is around 27 metres (89 feet) long, though Australian
officials cautioned the first images were indistinct.
The relatively large size of the objects would also suggest
that, if they do come from the missing aircraft, it was
intact when it went into the water.
FBI HELPING PROBE
Investigators piecing together patchy data from military
radar and satellites believe that, minutes after its
identifying transponder was switched off as it crossed the
Gulf of Thailand, the plane turned sharply west, re-crossing
the Malay Peninsula and following an established commercial
route towards India.
What happened next is unclear, but faint electronic "pings"
picked up by one commercial satellite suggest the aircraft
flew on for at least six hours. That would be consistent with
the plane ending up in the southern Indian Ocean.
The methodical shutdown of the communications systems,
together with the fact that the plane appeared to be
following a planned course after turning back, has focused
particular attention on the pilot and co-pilot.
The FBI is helping Malaysian authorities analyse data from a
flight simulator belonging to the captain of the missing
plane, after initial examination showed some data logs had
been deleted early last month.
A Malaysian official with knowledge of the investigations
into the pilots said three simulator games that 53-year-old
pilot, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, had played were being looked at.
"We are following up on the data logs being erased," the
source said. "These could be logs of the games that were
erased to free up memory, so it may not lead us to anything.
He played a lot of games, going into hundreds and thousands
An unprecedented multinational search for the plane has
focused on two vast search corridors: one arcing north
overland from Laos towards the Caspian Sea, the other curving
south across the Indian Ocean from west of Indonesia's
Sumatra island to west of Australia.
Australia is leading the search in the southern part of the
southern corridor, with assistance from the U.S. Navy.
The depth of the water where the possible debris has been
sighted would likely make recovering the "black box" voice
and data recorders that may finally unlock the mystery of
what happened aboard Flight MH370 extremely challenging.
University of Western Australia Professor of Oceanography
Charitha Pattiaratchi said that, based on currents in the
area, if the debris is from the plane it probably would have
gone into the water around 300-400 km (180-250 miles) to the
The search area covered an ocean ridge known as Naturalist
Plateau, a large sea shelf about 3,500 metres (9,800 feet)
deep, Pattiaratchi said. The plateau is about 250 km (150
miles) wide by 400 km (250 miles) long, and the area around
it is close to 5,000 metres (16,400 feet) deep.
"Whichever way you go, it's deep," he said.