Next phase of missing Malaysian jet search to be challenging

Next phase of missing Malaysian jet search to be challenging

PanARMENIAN.Net - The next phase of the hunt for the Malaysia Airlines jet MH370 missing since March 8 will be very challenging in places, BBC News reports.

Detailed information being gathered about the shape of the ocean floor west of Australia confirms the seabed in some locations to be extremely rugged.

Two vessels - the Fugro Equator and the Zhu Kezhen - are currently mapping an area covering 60,000 sq km. This survey will guide a metre-by-metre search using towed instruments and submersibles. This is likely to get under way towards the end of September. The Australian authorities have warned that this could take a year to complete.

The Dutch-owned Fugro Equator and the Chinese naval vessel Zhu Kezhen are presently assembling a bathymetric (depth) map.

It covers the general location in the southern Indian Ocean where investigators believe MH370 is most likely to have come down.

The map is akin to a broad canvas - a first-ever proper look at a terrain about which there is the slimmest of knowledge.

It is essential work. Without this map, which has a resolution of roughly 25m in the deepest depths, it would not be safe to put down submersibles, as there is a high risk these vehicles would be lost.

"There are volcanoes down there we've found which were unknown before," says Paul Kennedy from Fugro Survey Pty Ltd.

"There are all sorts of new features that are appearing," the BBC quoted the company's project director for the MH370 search as saying.

The Fugro Equator is equipped with a state-of-the-art multibeam echosounder. The vast majority of the area it is covering has never been sampled before. It has recorded depths near to 6,000m. Even the shallow regions are more than 1,000m down. But it is the craggy nature of the seabed that will prompt extreme caution to be exercised in the next phase of operations.

Fugro has been contracted by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau to conduct this part of the search as well. It will involve the Equator and another ship, the Fugro Discovery. Both ships will pull a deep-tow instrument very close to the sea floor using a 10,000m armoured fibre-optic cable.

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