The new focus in the hunt for Flight 370 is a "hostile" expanse of ocean featuring high winds, large waves, and with no land in sight, according to an oceanographer.
Officials announced Thursday that a satellite had picked up two indistinct objects about 1,400 miles off Perth, Australia.
But aircraft and ships dispatched to the area by the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand have a daunting task on their hands, according to Professor Greg Ivey of the Oceans Institute at the University of Western Australia.
"It is a pretty energetic part of the ocean - it's hostile," Ivey told NBC News on Thursday.
SERGEANT HAMISH PATERSON / AUSTRALIAN DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE via EPA
Australian Air Force pilot Russell Adams navigates his AP-3C Orion aircraft over the Southern Indian Ocean on Thursday.
"It's very remote from any land mass, there are strong winds and currents, and high waves, even in comparison to other parts of the open ocean," he said.
The satellite images released by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority were taken on Sunday. Ivey said that the debris could easily have traveled tens of miles in just four days.
"The general drift would be east, toward the Australian mainland," he said.
Sean Davey / Reuters
The search area for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in the southern Indian Ocean.
By 6 a.m. ET it was still not clear if the satellite image was connected to the missing jet. But Ivey said the area now being searched was comparable in depth to the region of the Atlantic ocean where Air France Flight 447 crashed in June 2009.
While the first debris was found days after that incident, authorities did not find the aircraft's black boxes for almost two years.
"This is very deep ocean, which can get up to a few thousand meters in depth," he said. "If any wreckage did get to the bottom, actually finding it and salvaging it would be very difficult."
First published March 20 2014, 3:44 AM