In a stunning development, Australia has dispatched four planes and a navy ship to search a southern Indian Ocean area where two large floating objects have been detected by satellite imaging. They hope to determine whether they are pieces of wreckage from the Malaysian Airlines jumbo jet MH370, which went missing almost two weeks ago, on March 8.
As reported by the Guardian, satellite imagery has pinpointed at least two objects of a "reasonable size" bobbing in the southern Indian Ocean. John Young is Australia's Maritime Safety Authority's emergency response general manager. He described the larger of the two objects as being about 24 meters in size – with the second object being smaller. And, images of a number of smaller objects appear to be scattered around the large object, he said.
"This is a lead. It is probably the best lead we have right now. But we need to get there, find them, see them, assess them to know whether it’s really meaningful or not," he said, but warned that the objects may turn out to be a false lead.
"The most likely scenario is that an aircraft will find an object, if it is findable, and then report back an accurate GPS position," Young said. "And AMSA would task the ship to proceed to the area and attempt to see it.
"That would be our first chance to get a close up look of whatever the objects might be and progressively advance the identification of whether they’re associated with the search or not."
It was early Thursday (yesterday in Australia) that Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced the discovery in parliament. He called it "new and credible information," reports Yahoonews.com.
Abbott said that he had already conferred with his Malaysian counterpoart, Najib Razak and noted that the objects have yet to be identified. And, because of inclement weather, Abbott warned that,
"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.
But a Malaysian government minister was virtually unequivocal in his assessment of this new development. He flatly stated that the objects are suspected to be part of the missing jet.
"I can confirm we have a new lead," Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein told reporters in Kuala Lumpur, the site from which the plane took off and the center of the investigation into its disappearance.
Also, Gordon Dupon is a former Transportation Safety Board investigator. He told CBC News that he is "not surprised" to hear these developments because he always believed the plane would be found.
"It's possible that they may find even the vertical fin floating, and that stuff will float because it's full of air," he said.
Dupon reminded his interviewers of the Air France flight in 2009 from which wreckage was found floating in the water.
Roger Maynard is a freelance reporter in Sydney. He told CBC News that this is an "important development."
According to Maynard, Australia will search an area of about 600,000 square kilometers of ocean. In the end, he warned, however, "these may just be specks in the ocean literally."
And so, until the Aussies report their findings back to the rest of the world, all theories about this plane's ultimate fate should be put on hold.
It is clear that something is there floating in the water. And 24 meters is about the size of one of the wings of this jet. The fuel is contained within the wings; and so when empty, the wing would be filled only with air. Assuming the engine was stripped off upon impact with the water, then this possible wing could easily float.
Let's hope that we can finally put this incident and all of those unfortunate people aboard that plane to rest.