The declaration that Flight 370 has been lost with no survivors got more supporting evidence overnight. Pictures taken Sunday from a French satellite show 122 objects in the water 2555 kilometers (1588 miles) southwest of Perth in the south Indian Ocean, where investigators now believe the airplane eventually crashed. Malaysia’s government announced the findings in a press conference a short while ago:

Satellite images taken on Sunday show 122 “potential objects” in the search for debris from missing flight MH370, Malaysian investigators said Wednesday.

Analysis of the images, which were supplied by France-based aeronautical firm Airbus Defence, revealed objects in the southern Indian Ocean around 1,588 miles from Perth, Australia – close to where other objects were previously seen.
The objects were between one meter (3 feet) and 23 meters (72 feet) in length and were seen across an area of ocean approximately 154 square miles wide, acting transport minister Hishamuddin Hussein told reporters.

“Some of the objects appeared to be bright, possibly indicating solid materials,” he added.

Even though the search has changed from a rescue to a recovery operation, time still matters. In order to unravel the mystery of Flight 370, investigators need the so-called “black boxes” — the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorders. They come equipped with beacons to help locate them after crashes, but the beacon batteries are designed to last a month … and the flight has been missing for almost three weeks already:

The search for the wreckage and the plane’s flight data and cockpit voice recorders could take years because the ocean can extend to up to 23,000 feet deep in some parts. It took two years to find the black box from an Air France jet that went down in the Atlantic Ocean on a flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris in 2009, and searchers knew within days where the crash site was.

There is a race against the clock to find Flight 370’s black boxes, whose battery-powered “pinger” could stop sending signals within two weeks. The batteries are designed to last at least a month.

Today’s focus involves a 30,000-square-mile swath of ocean more than 1,200 miles off the coast of Australia.

The batteries do not have any role in safeguarding the data, so even if the beacon batteries run out, the recorders should still yield their information. But if the investigators and the search teams can’t pinpoint their location soon, they may never be recovered. The Air France crash happened relatively close to shore in an area that was nowhere near as deep as the search area for Malaysia Air 370, and as ABC notes, it still took years to find and retrieve those recorders.

ABC had an update prior to this press conference on weather-related delays that don’t help, either. Also, the airline is now offering the families a $5,000 settlement for each passenger lost. Somehow, I doubt that will be the final figure:

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