MH370 Crash: Bad Timing for Australia to Lead Search, Says Geologist

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By Athena Yenko | March 26, 2014 1:58 PM EST

Leading the search for the mysterious crash of the MH370 was bad timing for Australia, Robin Beaman, an Australian marine geologist from James Cook University said.

The suspected debris suspected to be from the missing MH370 was resting on a giant undersea chain of volcanoes - an area of the ocean which is not on a map. The area therefore requires extensive 3D mapping by ships with multibeam echo, said Mr Beaman.

On March 16, the first piece of the two suspected debris was spotted by DigitalGlobe satellites. The debris was located 60 kilometres south-west of the Southeast Indian Ridge where underwater volcanoes span from the south-west of Australia to below New Zealand.

The other object was located by Chinese aircraft 180 kilometres south-west of the ridge.

Unfortunately, Australia, which was tasked to lead the search, no longer has the needed equipment to map depths of 3000 metres.

The only government vessel that could have mapped the area, the RV Southern Surveyor, was decommissioned in December. The replacement was still in trial in Singapore.

''It's bad timing really. Australia has no capability of mapping these depths. On the flanks of the ridge, which is very likely where any crash zone occurred, there has been virtually no ... mapping apart from the odd strip. It's all going to have to be remapped, there's no doubt," Mr Beaman explained.

There had been attempts to map the area by international research groups but the maps were made 20 years ago and technology used at that time were already rendered obsolete at present.

The outdated maps of the area featured only 70 kilometres of the sea floor and only 10 kilometres to 20 kilometres of the path.

''It'll be very unlikely that debris has fallen in those little 10 to 20-kilometre wide zones. You're left with gaps of hundreds of kilometres where there is no detailed understanding of what the sea floor terrain looks like.''

Up for the challenging task, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said that Australia will keep searching until there is no hope.

"We keep searching until there is absolutely no hope of finding anything. It is not absolutely open-ended but it is not something we will lightly abandon," Mr Abbott told Channel Nine.

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