Three separate, but fleeting sounds from deep in the Indian Ocean offered new hope yesterday in the hunt for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet, as officials rushed to determine whether they were signals from the plane’s black boxes before their beacons fall silent.
The head of the multinational search being conducted off Australia’s west coast confirmed that a Chinese ship had picked up electronic pulsing signals twice in a small patch of the search zone, once on Friday and again on Saturday.
An Australian ship carrying sophisticated deep-sea sound equipment yesterday picked up a third signal in a different part of the massive search area.
“This is an important and encouraging lead, but one which I urge you to treat carefully,” retired Australian air chief marshall Angus Houston, who is coordinating the search, told reporters in Perth.
He stressed that the signals had not been verified as being linked to flight 370, which was traveling from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing when it disappeared on March 8.
“We have an acoustic event. The job now is to determine the significance of that event. It does not confirm or deny the presence of the aircraft locator on the bottom of the ocean,” Houston said, referring to each of the three transmissions.
“We are dealing with very deep water, we are dealing with an environment where sometimes you can get false indications,” he said. “There are lots of noises in the ocean, and sometimes the acoustic equipment can rebound, echo if you like.”
Xinhua news agency reported on Saturday that the patrol vessel Haixun 01 detected a “pulse signal” on Friday in the southern Indian Ocean at 37.5 kilohertz — the same frequency emitted by the flight data recorders aboard the missing plane.
Houston confirmed the report, and said the Haixun 01 detected a signal again on Saturday within 2km of the original signal, for 90 seconds. He said China also reported seeing white objects floating in the sea in the area.