MH 370’s Search goes underwater( CNN )

Posted: April 14, 2014 in News

Efforts to find missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370 focused beneath the choppy surface of the Indian Ocean on Monday as Australian authorities sent a U.S. Navy submersible diving toward the sea floor in a bid to find the jetliner and the 239 people aboard it.

Meanwhile, new clues emerged above the surface, as investigators reported finding an oil slick in the search zone and a U.S. official revealed that a Malaysian cell phone tower detected the co-pilot’s phone around the time of the disappearance.

The decision to put the Bluefin-21 autonomous underwater vehicle into the water for the first time in the 38-day search comes nearly a week after listening devices last heard sounds that could be from locator beacons attached to the plane’s “black boxes.”

“We haven’t had a single detection in six days,” Australian chief search coordinator Angus Houston said. “It’s time to go underwater.”

The probe is equipped with side-scan sonar — acoustic technology that creates pictures from the reflections of sound rather than light. Such technology is routinely used to find sunken ships and was crucial in finding Air France Flight 447, which crashed into the Atlantic Ocean in 2009.

Houston cautioned against hopes that the underwater vehicle will find wreckage of the plane, which disappeared on March 8 on a flight between Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and Beijing.

“It may not,” he said. “This will be a slow and painstaking process.”

It will take the probe and its operators 24 hours to map each portion of the search area — two hours to descend, 16 hours to map, another two hours to rise to the surface and four hours for operators to download and analyze the information.

The first mission will cover an area 5 kilometers by 8 kilometers (3.1 miles by 4.9 miles). It will take up to two months to scan the entire search area.

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