Crews searching for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet are investigating an oil slick found not far from the area where underwater “pings” that may be linked to the aircraft’s black box were detected.
“A sample of about two liters has been collected and we are a number of days before it can be landed ashore and conclusively tested,” said retired Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, the head of a joint agency coordinating the painstaking search off Australia’s west coast. “I stress the source of the oil is yet to be determined.”
The slick is approximately 18,000 feet down-wind and down-sea from signals consistent with an aircraft's black boxes that were detected by a U.S. Navy "pinger locator" that was towed in the southern Indian Ocean.
However, one expert warned that it would be impossible to directly link the sample to the Boeing 777 which vanished on March 8.
“They won’t be able to establish whether it’s come from the missing plane because that is using standard aviation fuel,” said Dr. Simon Boxall, a lecturer at the government-funded National Oceanography Centre in Southampton, U.K..
Boxall added that the substance could have leaked from a ship, planes flying overhead or even be linked to natural seepage from oil reserves under the sea bed.