‘He will be found’: MH370 search continues with experts and amateurs still on the hunt | Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370

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Somewhere in the vast expanse of Earth’s oceans is MH370, the Malaysia Airlines flight that went missing on March 8, 2014 with 239 people on board.

Authorities closed the research books in 2017, but people around the world continue to hunt. And one day the plane will be found.

This is what the Australian who was in charge of amateur research says, because people will not give up on research.

Peter Foley was the program director for the international effort led by the Australian Transportation Safety Board. Hundreds of people have participated in researching over 120,000 square kilometers of the southern Indian Ocean seabed. They mapped the area, attempted to trace the debris back to its origin and prepared for a recovery mission, before the search was suspended in early 2017.

In its closing report, the ATSB explained its scientific approaches and professed very human emotions while directly addressing the families of the missing.

Malaysia Airlines plane seen from an observation gallery at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Photograph: Fazry Ismail / EPA

“We share your deep and prolonged grief, and deeply regret that we were not able to locate the aircraft, nor those 239 souls on board who are still missing,” the report said.

“It is almost inconceivable and certainly unacceptable to society in the modern age of aviation … that a large commercial aircraft is missing and the world does not know for sure what happened to the aircraft and those on board.”

Foley focuses on that empathy and regret, and says the MH370 will be found, and that it will be found near the area they were looking for.

“It’s one of those things that will captivate people until the mystery is solved,” he says. “It is a mystery that must be solved and will eventually be solved.”

The MH370 disappeared from air traffic control radars after a 38-minute flight between Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and Beijing, China. Analysis of satellite and radar data showed that he had continued to fly for an additional seven hours.

Family members at a memorial event for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 2019.
Family members at a memorial event for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 2019. Photograph: Lai Seng Sin / Reuters

Conspiracy theories about what happened abound. On social media, people are speculating on the involvement of organ harvesting and black holes, aliens and North Korea. Other theories, including that it was a conspiracy to murder / suicide the pilot, or that the pilot was unconscious, have been taken more seriously – although never confirmed.

In January 2018, the Malaysian government contracted with marine robotics company Ocean Infinity to send autonomous underwater vehicles under a “no research, no cost” deal. By May, they had given up – for now.

There are always dedicated researchers, ranging from conspiracy theorists to well-meaning amateurs and full-fledged experts.

They include those who work with new data models and are determined to solve the mystery of the MH370 for fame, money or knowledge, or to provide answers to loved ones left behind.

Dr Ian MacLeod, a shipwreck expert, deep-sea diver and lover of ocean mysteries, also says it’s a matter of when, not if, he will be found.

Officers transport debris in Saint-André de la Réunion, in eastern Reunion Island, France in 2015.
Officers transport debris in Saint-André de la Réunion, in eastern Reunion Island, France in 2015. Photograph: Raymond Wae Tion / EPA

A world-renowned authority on marine corrosion and conservation and a member of the WA Museum, Macleod says the MH370 mystery hunters are people who like to “unravel the bullshit” around what happened to this plane.

“What is happening is that there are people who don’t accept lies and sniff them out and who are passionate, persistent and intelligent,” he says. “You need these three combinations, just like you need three reference points to triangulate a falling meteorite.

“People will not give up until the last breath is out of their body. People will find it. New information will emerge, governments will change and they will go back and find it. “

The Malaysian government said in 2018 it was not ruling out future missions, and family members of missing people are encouraging them to do so. Ocean Infinity said it was open to new research.

One of those leading the pack of MH370 detectives is aerospace engineer Richard Godfrey, who is part of the independent group of scientists searching for the wreckage.

Speaking from Frankfurt, Germany, Godfrey says he’s “pretty focused,” spending hours every day for the past seven and a half years looking. It uses the Weak Signal Spread Ratio Network (WSPR) to track disturbances in radio waves. A global database of radio waves that are reflected or broadcast when an aircraft passes through them.

Imagine trigger wires forming a mesh across a meadow, he says.

Dr Ian MacLeod is one of the world's leading experts in wreckage, corrosion and conservation.
Dr Ian MacLeod is one of the world’s leading experts in wreckage, corrosion and conservation. Photograph: David Dare Parker / The Guardian

“Every step you take causes you to walk on particular trigger wires and we can locate you… we can follow your path as you move through the prairie. “

These disturbances, mapped with the satellites lashing the plane, may help “fill in some of the gaps and help us know more precisely where the MH370 crashed.” He says his findings suggest the MH370 pilot made false tracks to confuse authorities before plunging into the southern Indian Ocean. This in turn suggests that the pilot knew what he was doing.

Godfrey says his interest in the fate of MH370 stems from something that happened to him. In 2009, it was booked on a flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris. A week later, that same flight, Air France 447, crashed in the Atlantic with 228 people on board. After nearly two years of searching, the main wreckage was found.

When the MH370 went missing, Godfrey wanted answers. The same goes for loved ones, he says, and the aviation industry, not to mention anyone who boards a plane hoping to land safely at the other end.

There are many others who share his passion. Wreck hunter Blaine Gibson is still looking for answers. Bob Ballard, who found the wreckage of the Titanic in 1985, wants to help. Families have always said they will continue to fight.

MacLeod, the Perth-based corrosion expert, talks about what’s left and how knowing what’s there could help those left.

Depending on the damage from the impact, if the plane landed on a hard surface – say, a boulder at the bottom of a watery abyss – it might be well preserved. But if it sank into the silt, the aluminum will have corroded. Much will depend on where it is located and on deep sea currents which may have high or low salinity, high or low temperatures.

But it could look “remarkably unchanged,” MacLeod says, with the windows shattered from the pressure, but the tube intact. And you have to leave it underwater, because putting it in the air could see it collapse.

The important thing is to close families. MacLeod speaks of the thrill of finding HMAS Sydney, when survivors and loved ones came out and laid wreaths at the site.

And he was on HMAS Anzac for the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the AE2 – Australia’s second submarine – where joint Australian / Turkish groups performed in memory of those who sank. (Australia’s first submarine, the AE1, was found off the coast of Papua New Guinea in 2017).

MacLeod thinks a lot about the mysteries of the ocean and the importance of mourning rituals.

Wreck hunter Blaine Gibson is still looking for answers.
Wreck hunter Blaine Gibson is still looking for answers. Photograph: Blaine Gibson / EPA

As a child in Ballarat, he rang the memorial bells to mark the death of Harold Holt on a summer day in 1967, when the then Prime Minister disappeared in heavy waves near Portsea in Victoria. He was never seen again. MacLeod rang the bells and pursued a career based on lives lost at sea.

“There are certain rites of passage that you participate in,” he says. “I owe my entire professional career in corrosion and conservation to the death and misfortune of those wrecked on the WA Coast.

“People who lost their lives, it was not in vain, because their story continues… that’s what motivates me. This is why I give public lectures on decay and preservation… even after we die our stories only begin to be told in another way, through the processes of decay.

“Every piece of decay has a story to tell.”

Foley is now retired, but is obviously still emotionally linked to the history of the MH370, and he has clear insight into everything that has happened since the ATSB research ended.

He says he is “extraordinarily eager” to see another search started, so that the plane can be found. He is also extremely keen to return questions about his role to other people’s work and why they did it – families.

“I honestly believe that the people who were so far from home in such terrible weather in the Indian Ocean are the absolute heroes of the search and we really worked incredibly hard to find this plane,” he said. .

“And it would be such a relief for everyone involved to see that it has finally been found and that there are answers for 239 families.

“Whether it’s by sheer luck and a fisherman picking up a piece of debris on a long line or whether it’s a technological breakthrough that allows us to research large areas of the ocean floor in detail or whether it’s a philanthropist who uses existing technology … he will be found.

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