An Australian company claims to have found wreckage consistent with missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 in the southern Indian Ocean, south of Perth. Are we on the verge of a breakthrough?
Not so fast — we’ve been in this position before. With the search heading into its 55th day, and officials acknowledging it may continue for years, the public can expect to endure more ups and downs as more information — and speculation — comes to light. Crikey took a look back at the near-misses of the last few months, when Australia might have jumped the gun on claiming a solution to the mystery might be nigh …
March 20, 2014: The Australian Maritime Safety Authority receives “expert assessment” of satellite imagery that might have indicated the two floating objects are remains of the missing Boeing 777. Prime Minister Tony Abbott identifies the debris as the “first tangible breakthrough” in Parliament. John Young of AMSA describes the imagery as the “best lead we have right now“.
March 24, 2014: Malaysia Airlines contacts some relatives of missing passengers via text message and says is it now “beyond reasonable doubt” that the plane has crashed and those aboard did not survive. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak confirms that analysis of satellite data shows the last position of the missing plane to be the southern Indian Ocean.
April 3, 2014: Abbott tells a news conference in Perth that authorities “have a higher degree of confidence” regarding the missing plane and the events that surrounded its disappearance.
April 4, 2014: The underwater search begins for the doomed plane’s black box, according to information found by the Ocean Shield and Britain’s HMS Echo. Houston is “confident” in the global co-operation efforts.
April 6, 2014: Houston asks the media to treat every lead as “unverified” until they are exhausted by authorities, as he does not want to cause “further emotional distress” to relatives and friends of passengers.
April 7, 2014: Houston tells the media authorities are “quite confident” that the “pinger” from the plane would be found.
April 9, 2014: Houston announces the search zone has been narrowed further, after Ocean Shield detected two further pings on the previous day. Houston is “confident” that the area “provides a promising area to exploit” and that it is the “right area”. He says authorities are “more confident” than before.
April 12-13, 2014: Houston confirms that there have been no acoustic detections over the two days. “More focused sweeps” are planned to assist future underwater searches. Recovered items are confirmed as unrelated to MH370. Abbott highlights a “high degree of confidence” that acoustic signals detected are from at least one of the two black boxes.
April 17, 2014: Houston denies media reports that the underwater search by Bluefin 21 could take up to two months, but does not specify a replacement timeline. A media release says the most promising lead is the underwater search area. Abbott tells The Wall Street Journal the “best leads would be exhausted” in close to a week.
April 19-20, 2014: Authorities reiterate that signals detected on April 8 are the “best lead so far” and have created a 10-kilometre radius for the underwater operations.
April 28, 2014: Media releases by the JACC are increasingly brief over the past few days, despite a new phase of operations.
Abbott says authorities “still have a considerable degree of confidence that detections were picked up from a black box recorder”, despite being “baffled and disappointed” that no wreckage has been found. The back-pedalling raises Twitter speculations that the hype was an attempt to distract Australian audiences from “damaging scandals” regarding the Coalition’s involvement in New South Wales corruption inquiries.
April 30, 2014: Australian exploration company GeoResonance claims it it has identified possible wreckage from a commercial airliner on the ocean floor, 5000 kilometres outside current search zones. Could this be it …?