Aussie vessel detects signals twice in hunt for MH370
THE chief of the team coordinating the hunt for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in the Indian Ocean said yesterday that an Australian vessel had twice detected underwater signals "consistent with" flight data and cockpit voice recorders, possibly from the missing jet.
"Clearly this is a most promising lead," the official, Mr Angus Houston, said at a news conference in Perth, Australia.
He called it "probably the best information that we have had" in the search.
"I'm much more optimistic than I was a week ago," he said.
The two "signal detections", as he called them, occurred within a 24-hour period in the northern part of an area of the Indian Ocean, hundreds of miles off the west coast of Australia, where an international search force has been focusing its efforts in recent days.
The first detection by the vessel, Ocean Shield, lasted about two hours and 20 minutes, he said.
The ship lost contact, turned around, then picked up the signal again, hearing "two distinct pinger returns".
The second detection lasted about 13 minutes, he said.
But he added that it might take officials several days to confirm that the acoustic noises were from the missing plane.
"This is not the end of the search," he said.
"We've still got a lot of difficult, painstaking work to do. In deep oceanic water, nothing happens fast," he said.
Even with Mr Houston's caveats, however, the announcement offered the best hope so far that after more than four weeks of fruitless searching across vast areas of sea and land in the Eastern Hemisphere, officials might finally be zeroing in on concrete evidence of the plane and its fate.
A discovery of the plane using the sonic technology would be particularly extraordinary, considering that the batteries in the black boxes are expected to expire as soon as this week.
Once the batteries are dead, the boxes' sonic beacons will cease operating, making the discovery of undersea wreckage far more difficult.