For the past two days, investigators in the mystery of Malaysia Air Flight 370 have concentrated on the “southern track,” the potential path of the airplane based on satellite communication after its course change and transponder cut-off. That may have borne the first fruit of the hemispheric search. Satellites picked up two significant objects in the southern Indian Ocean southwest of Australia, one estimated at 78 feet long, and ships are steaming quickly toward both. The two objects have not been confirmed yet to be part of the missing airplane, but Australia considers it to be the most promising lead yet:
Australia’s prime minister said Thursday that two objects that may be pieces of a missing Malaysia Airlines passenger jet have been spotted in the southern Indian Ocean.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott told the Australian Parliament in Canberra that “new and credible information has come to light” on the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, with images of two objects gleaned from satellite imagery. …
John Young, general manager of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, said one object was roughly 80 feet long, while there was another smaller object, and “a number of other images in the general area of the biggest one,” he said.
The tail of a Boeing 777-200 is 60 feet high, the plane is 209 feet long, and the wing span is 199 feet.
“The indication to me is of objects that are a reasonable size and probably awash with water, bobbing up and down on the surface,” Young told a news conference in Canberra.
The imagery contains no markings or other indications that they may be part of the Boeing 777 that went missing almost two weeks ago. The satellite in question was commercial, not military or intelligence, and doesn’t have that kind of resolution. The timing of the photographs may be another issue, at least in terms of precisely locating the debris. The pictures were taken on March 16, four days ago, and anything floating in the manner described may be a significant distance away from their location on March 16 — and that debris could have moved a long way from any potential impact area between the loss of the plane and Sunday.
Naval and air assets are being rapidly deployed to the area:
Australia is investigating two objects seen on satellite images that could potentially be linked to the missing Malaysia Airlines plane, officials say.
Planes and ships from Australia, New Zealand and the US were in or heading to the area 2,500km (1,550 miles) from Perth to search for the objects. …
“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 warned that poor visibility in the area could hamper the search.
Norway was the first to arrive:
A Norwegian ship, the St Petersburg, reached Thursday the area of the Indian Ocean where possible debris of the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 plane were spotted, shipping company Hoeeg Autoliners said.
We’ll see. This could be nothing at all, or debris from an unrelated incident that has been floating for a long time in the Indian Ocean. Its proximity to the theoretical flight path taken by Flight 370 makes this an intriguing turn of events, although also a pessimistic one.