The search in the southern Indian Ocean for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet began early Thursday (late Wednesday ET), Australian authorities said.
Searchers from four countries — Australia, Japan, China and the United States — resumed scouring for the doomed airplane before 9 a.m. Thursday (local time) — a day after Malaysian investigators said satellite images taken Sunday show 122 “potential objects” off the coast of Perth, Australia.
The search area Thursday will cover a cumulative 30,000 square miles southwest of Perth, according to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.
The HMAS Success, a Royal Australian Navy ship, was stationed in the search area roughly 1,553 southwest of Perth early Thursday. It was joined by four Chinese ships — including the icebreaker Xue Long — as well as a Chinese IL-76 aircraft.
A U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon aircraft, two Royal Australian Air Force P-3 Orion aircraft, a Japanese Gulfstream jet and P-3 Orion aircraft were also due to be dispatched for the grueling hunt.
A total of 16 assets — 11 aircraft and five ships — are involved in Thursday’s search operation, officials said.
AMSA said the operation had staggered departure times between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Investigators are in a race against time to find the doomed airplane’s “black boxes” — the voice and data recorders that may solve the mystery of what caused the Boeing 777’s disappearance. The devices are designed to emit signals — “pings” — to help searchers find them, but they run on batteries that may have as little as a week’s worth of power left.
The batteries on the pingers are designed to last 30 days, “although they have been known to work for a few more days beyond this,” said James Gibson, the general manager of Phoenix International Holdings, the U.S. Navy’s contractor for deep ocean search and recovery equipment.
Gibson said after 30 days, the pings begin to fade away like a dying “flashlight—after time it slowly dims and then stops working.”
Authorities have said a U.S. Navy pinger locator as well as an underwater drone were due to arrive off Perth early Wednesday. It was not immediately clear when they would be deployed.
— Daniel Arkin
First published March 26 2014, 1:39 PM