Science & Tech

Researchers find new evidence which could solve MH370 flight mystery

Researchers find new evidence which could solve MH370 flight mystery
MH370: Simon Calder says 'extraordinary piece of research' could finally solve mystery
GB News Videos / VideoElephant

It’s been more than 10 years since Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 vanished with 239 people on board.

Despite years of desperate searching, the plane’s final resting place remains unknown – making it one of aviation’s greatest mysteries.

However, experts at Cardiff University believe they could be close to a breakthrough in the extraordinary case, thanks to a six-second audio clip.

The team has just published research in the journal Nature Scientific Reports positing that underwater acoustic signals generated by the crash of the aircraft could, finally, reveal where it now lies.

Flight MH370 was travelling from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing when it disappeared from radar screens.

Official investigations suggest it strayed from its planned route, and ended up heading southwest over the Indian Ocean.

And yet, extensive multinational search efforts have yielded no results. The most anyone has found of the wreckage are a few pieces of debris that washed ashore on western Indian Ocean islands.

However, in their quest for answers the Cardiff University researchers took a fresh approach: turning to underwater microphones – called hydrophones – which capture sound waves and pressure changes in the ocean.

“Such technology has shown promise in detecting pressure signals from various events, including aircraft crashes,” Usama Kadri, who led the study, wrote in a piece for the Conversation.

“These types of signals can travel thousands of kilometres, making hydrophones a valuable tool for identifying and classifying events in marine environments."

Families continue to search for answers surrounding their loved ones' fate(Getty Images)

For their study, Kadri and his team colleagues analysed data from hydroacoustic stations in the region in which MH370 is believed to have gone missing – focussing on Cape Leeuwin in Western Australia and Diego Garcia, an island in the Indian Ocean.

Both stations were operational around the time MH370 is thought to have crashed and are located within tens of minutes’ signal travel time from the area of the plane’s last communication.

Stations such as these “have previously detected distinctive pressure signals from aircraft crashes, as well as earthquakes of various sizes at distances of more than 5,000 kilometres away,” Kadri noted.

“The mode of impact dictates the signal’s properties such as duration, frequency range and loudness,” he went on.

“By examining these signals, we hoped to identify any potential acoustic evidence of MH370’s crash.”

And, indeed, evidence may already have been found, with analysis by both the Cardiff University scientists and experts at Australia’s Curtin University, confirming that a signal from an unknown source was recorded at Cape Leeuwin station, at around the time and in the rough presumed location of the MH370 crash.

The problem is, the signal fell outside the time window suggested by the official search.

“Our latest research focused on the official and narrow time window. The analysis identified only one relevant signal [...] recorded at the Cape Leeuwin station. But this signal was not detected at the Diego Garcia station,” Kadri explained.

“This raises questions about its origin.”

The Hydroacoustic Network and how it

Nevertheless, he further pointed out that “a 200-tonne aircraft crashing at a speed of 200 metres per second would release the kinetic energy equivalent to a small earthquake” and would be “large enough to be recorded by hydrophones thousands of kilometres away”.

He continued: “Given the sensitivity of the hydrophones, it’s highly unlikely that a large aircraft impacting the ocean surface wouldn’t leave a detectable pressure signature, particularly on nearby hydrophones.

“But unfavourable ocean conditions could potentially dampen or obscure such a signal.”

Kadri suggested that in order to establish the detectability of the acoustic signal from MH370, controlled explosions could be carried out along the so-called “seventh arc” – the area determined by last communication between a satellite and the plane.

He noted that similar experiments had been carried out, for example, to find the remains of the Argentine Navy’s ARA San Juan submarine which vanished in November 2017.

Two weeks after the disappearance, a calibration grenade was dropped near the last known location of the submarine, whose hydroacoustic signal was similar to an unusual signal detected following the sub’s implosion.

The vessel was found a year later with all 44 crew members lost.

The aircraft's disappearance remains one of aviation's greatest mysteries(Getty Images)

“A similar exercise, using either explosions or airguns of energy levels equivalent to those believed to be associated with MH370, could be conducted along the seventh arc,” Kadri suggested.

“If the signals from such explosions showed pressure amplitudes similar to the signal of interest, it would support focusing future searches on that signal. If the signals detected at both Cape Leeuwin and Diego Garcia are much stronger than the signal in question, it would require further analysis of the signals from both stations.”

“This could also lead to a reassessment of the data used to determine the seventh arc, considering new scenarios based on updated findings.”

He concluded: “So, while our research does not pinpoint MH370’s exact crash location, it highlights the potential of hydroacoustic technology in solving this aviation mystery.

“By refining our methods and conducting further experiments, we could provide new insights into MH370’s fate and improve our response to future maritime incidents.”

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