Malaysian Airlines Flight 370: Australian Defence Minister Says Search Area for 2 Objects Is in Most Isolated Part of the World

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By Vittorio Hernandez | March 21, 2014 10:11 AM EST

The announcement on Thursday by Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott that the country's satellite captured images of 2 objects on the southern Indian Ocean gave a fresh glimmer of hope for an end to the 13-day search for the missing Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 jet with 239 passengers and crew.


SpaceX Dragon capsule floats in the Pacific Ocean off of Baja, California (Reuters/Nasa)

However, search teams from 26 nations acknowledged it would be a difficult task.

Australian Defence Minister David Johnston has described the area where the 2 objects were spotted as being "in the most isolated part of the world."

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Flying to the area costs so much in expensive aviation fuel, and this leaves the search planes with not much in their tanks to search.

John Blaxland, senior fellow at the Australian National University and a radar expert, admitted he is quite pessimistic about the value of the find because it could actually turn out to be debris from cargo containers that pass the Indian Ocean.

Besides the difficulty of pinpointing the exact location of the two unidentified objects, Mr Blaxland added poor visibility does not help. Mr Johnston said that the area is also characterised by high winds and white-capped waves that could mask any debris.

The low clouds had actually hampered the two hours of search time of Australia's P-3 Orion and C-130 Hercules jets that are on an eight-hour round trip to the area.

"It's really hard, in this kind of environment, to pick out those little semi-submerged blips ... You're looking for something that is potentially not even there anymore," Mr Blaxland told BBC.

Once the search jets reach the area and spot the objects, it would drop a buoy to mark the spot and transmit data to help ships find it, said aviation expert Bill Waddock.

Actually, a Norwegian merchant cargo vessel with 19 seamen and cars is in the vicinity and is helping now in the search. Erik Gierchsky, spokesman for the Norwegian Shipowners Association, said the crew is on the deck of the Hoegh St Peterburg continuing the search, using lights and binoculars.

The 230-metre cargo ship was headed for Melbourne from South Africa but was diverted to help find the objects.

French rescuers, meanwhile, told Malaysia authorities that the recorders must be found quickly, but Malaysia lacks submarine technology.  Captain Timothy Taylor, president of Tiburon Subsea Services and an ocean search expert, agreed that time is critical since batteries that power the pings from the jet's voice and data recorders will run out of juice after 30 days.

That leaves the searchers only about 18 more days to locate it based on the signals.

Despite the odds and the race against time, Van Gurley, a retired U.S. Navy captain, said investigators must not rule out anything that could help locate the missing plane. He told BBC, "That is the technique that led us to be able to help the French find Air France 447. It was the accumulation of lots of small bits of evidence that were carefully collected and put together in a mathematically rigorous fashion."

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SpaceX Dragon capsule floats in the Pacific Ocean off of Baja, California (Reuters/Nasa)
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