Sydney: A robotic mini-submarine deployed to search for the crashed MH370’s debris today resumed the hunt after eight days of suspended operations ahead of its final week of scouring the Indian Ocean seabed, which will now be mapped to locate the final resting place of the jet.
Bluefin-21, a US Navy probe equipped with side-scan sonar, was redeployed from Australian Navy ship Ocean Shield and is currently continuing its underwater search, Australia’s Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC) coordinating the multinational hunt said in a statement.
“The Autonomous Underwater Vehicle, Bluefin-21, was deployed from the vessel around 2am this morning. It remains underwater on its search mission,” the statement said.
The underwater search for the wreckage of the Malaysia Airlines Flight – that mysteriously went missing on March 8 with 239 people, including 5 Indians on board – was put on hold last week due to technical issues.
The Bluefin – which can plunge to a depth of some 4,500 metres – and the transponder were damaged when the vehicle was being hoisted onto the deck of the ship following which the unmanned mini-sub was pulled from the water.
It resumed the search in the remote area of several transmissions that authorities believe came from the missing aircraft’s black box recorders.
“Over the next week, Bluefin-21 will search the remaining areas in the vicinity of the acoustic signals detected in early April by the Towed Pinger Locator deployed from Ocean Shield that are within its depth operating limits.
“This continues the process that will ultimately enable the search team to discount or confirm the area of the acoustic signals as the final resting place of MH370,” the JACC said.
Ocean Shield will depart the search area on May 28 and return to the Fleet Base on May 31 where it will demobilise the Bluefin and disembark the support team.
The Chinese survey ship Zhu Kezhen departed Fremantle yesterday to begin conducting the bathymetric survey of the areas provided by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau. The bathymetric survey — or mapping of the ocean floor — is being
done in preparation for a commercially contracted deep ocean search, including towed side-scan sonar operations.
“Chinese ship Haixun 01 will today begin transiting to the survey area to support the survey operations, including the weekly transportation of survey data to Fremantle for further processing by Geoscience Australia,” the JACC said.
Australia has been leading the hunt for the Boeing 777-200, believed to have crashed in the southern Indian Ocean but despite a massive air and sea search, no sign of any wreckage has yet been found.
The mystery of the missing plane has baffled aviation and security authorities who have so far not succeeded in tracking the jet despite deploying hi-tech radar and other gadgets.
The search for the jet has been exhausting and expensive with estimates suggesting it may cost nearly USD 60 million.