Workers help secure a Phoenix underwater mapping robot
before it is loaded on to the Ocean Shield at HMAS Stirling
naval base near Perth. REUTERS/Jason Reed
An Australian navy vessel is heading out from Perth with
special equipment able to detect signals from the black box
recorder on missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370.
The Ocean Shield was due within the Indian Ocean search zone
early today to join an international array of ships and
aircraft scouring the seas for any sign of the lost plane.
It's dispatch comes with one of Australia's P-3 Orions
spotting four orange-coloured objects at sea, each more than
two metres in size.
The co-ordinates and images of the items, the latest to be
sighted, were "of interest" but would need to be analysed,
Flight Lieutenant Russell Adams told Fairfax Media from RAAF
Pearce base after returning from an 11-hour mission on Sunday
A GPS buoy had also been dropped in the area of the sighting,
Lt Adams said.
Similarly, the specialist US Navy technology on board the
Ocean Shield will not be able to detect the "pinger" within
the plane's black box until a more confined search area is
The flight vanished with 239 people on board after setting
out from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8.
Although a number of satellite cameras and aircraft crews
have spotted objects in the water, no confirmed debris from
the Boeing 777 have been picked up by surface vessels.
As more planes and ships joined the hunt on the weekend,
Australia appointed one of its most decorated military
figures to help co-ordinate the search for MH370.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott says retired Air Chief Marshal
Angus Houston, the country's former defence force chief, will
lead a new joint agency co-ordination centre (JACC) in Perth.
The headquarters will help communication between
international search partners, while trying to keep the
families of those on the missing flight informed.
"There is no one better placed than Angus to co-ordinate and
liaise given the quite significant number of countries that
all have a stake in this search," he said.
Officials on Sunday said the first debris picked up by ships
combing the updated search area about 1850km west of Perth
was not from the stricken plane.
"It appeared to be fishing equipment and just rubbish on the
(ocean's) surface," said a spokesman for the Australian
Maritime Safety Authority, which is in charge of the
It had been feared the 30-day life of the black box could
expire before the equipment arrives.
But Captain Mark Matthews, the US Navy supervisor of salvage
and diving, says the device is certified for 30 days but
could last up to 15 days longer than that.
Australian Navy Commodore Peter Leavy said the focus was
still to find debris and confirm it was from flight MH370,
then work backwards to a possible crash site.
"The search area remains vast and this equipment can only be
effectively employed when there is a high probability that
the final location of Flight MH370 is better known," he said.
The Ocean Shield is also carrying an unmanned submersible
vehicle which can be used to sonar map and photograph debris
on the seafloor if the black box signal is located.