Missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370: Navy divers to trawl search area after evidence of black box 'pings'

Month-long hunt enters a 'critical' stage as missing plane's black box batteries reach the end of their expected life

Navy divers have been searching for the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, after signals detected by a vessel consistent with those from black box flight recorders were hailed as "the most promising lead" in the month-long hunt so far.

The head of the Australian-led search for the missing flight has said they will scour the sea before sending in a submersible underwater.

Australia’s Ocean Shield picked up the ‘pings’ on Saturday and Sunday, but were unable to relocate them on Monday.

They will now continue to trawl the area before sending a submersible to investigate whether faint sounds detected by equipment on board Australian vessel Ocean Shield are from the missing plane's black boxes.

If no further pings are detected, the autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) Bluefin-21 is onboard the Ocean Shield and could be sent to look for wreckage on the sea floor.

Angus Houston, head of the Australian agency coordinating the search for flight MH370, said the month-long hunt in the Indian Ocean was at a critical stage given the batteries in the black box beacons had already reached the end of their 30-day expected life.

"If we don't get any further transmissions, we have a reasonably large search area of the bottom of the ocean to prosecute and that will take a long, long time. It's very slow, painstaking work," said Houston.

"It is a large area for a small submersible that has a very narrow field of search, and of course, it is literally crawling along the bottom of the ocean," he said.

"That's why it’s so important to get another transmission and we need to continue until there's absolutely no chance the device is still transmitting."

The Bluefin will scour the ocean floor in 20-hour missions using sonar in an attempt to find the Boeing 777, before its findings are downloaded and analysed on board the Ocean Shield.

If anything unusual is spotted, the sonar on board the robotic vehicle will be replaced with a camera to take a closer look. The potential search area is about 4.5 km (2.8 miles) deep, the outer reach of the Bluefin's range.

READ MORE:  KEY QUESTIONS ANSWERED IN SEARCH FOR MISSING PLANE 
OPPOSITION LEADER SAYS GOVERNMENT IS CONCEALING INFORMATION 
LAST WORDS FROM COCKPIT WERE NOT 'ALL RIGHT, GOOD NIGHT'

Up to eleven military planes, three civilian planes and 14 ships are taking part in the search on Tuesday, with the Australian coordination centre reporting good weather in the search area.

On Monday, Malaysia's Defence Minister said he was "cautiously hopeful" that teams searching for missing flight MH370 will be able to make a positive announcement in the next few days, "if not hours".

His comments came after the head of the Australian agency co-ordinating the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 said the team is “very close” to locating the area where the aircraft fell, after a US Navy ‘ping’ locator towed by an Australian ship detected signals consistent with the beacons emitted from aircraft black box recorders.

Additional reporting by agencies

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Telesales Executive - OTE £30,000

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This precious metal refining co...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Conveyancing Fee Earner

£20000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Conveyancing Fee Earne...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - £40,000 - £70,000 OTE

£40000 - £70000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Case Handler - Probate

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn