The search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 has discovered a previously uncharted shipwreck in the Indian Ocean off western Australia, officials have said.
The discovery occurred after a cluster of objects almost 2.5 miles below the surface of the water was detected by sonar equipment on one of the vessels searching for the missing jetliner, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau has said.
Work is now underway to identify the ship, which is believed to have been built in the 19th century.
“It's a fascinating find, but it's not what we're looking for,” Peter Foley, ATSB's director of the operational search, said.
“We're not pausing in the search for MH370, in fact the vessels have already moved on to continue the mission.”
Following the discovery of the debris, authorities decided to take a closer look despite suspicions it did not belong to the Boeing 777, which has been missing since 8 March 2014.
An unmanned submarine was sent down to investigate the wreckage, which revealed a large number of small objects and several larger items.
Photographs of the debris have now been analysed, with experts concluding it belongs to a previously uncharted shipwreck.
The wreck is believed to belong to a cargo ship built in the mid-to-late 19th century, according to Michael McCarthy, a senior maritime archaeologist at the West Austrlian Maritime Museum.
Mr McCarthy has said it could be one of hundreds lost on voyages across the Indian Ocean.
In pictures: Missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370
In pictures: Missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370
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A family member of a passenger aboard the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 burns incense as he prays at Yonghegong Lama Temple in Beijing
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Family members of passengers aboard the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 burn incense to pray at Yonghegong Lama Temple in Beijing
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A family member of a passenger aboard the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 comforts another relative as they gather to pray at Yonghegong Lama Temple in Beijing
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Relatives of passengers on missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 cry as they gather at the Lama Temple in Beijing. Chinese relatives marked 100 days since the plane went missing on a flight from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Beijing by offering prayers and burning incense at the buddhist temple
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Relatives of passengers on missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 offer prayers at the Lama Temple in Beijing
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A Chinese relative of passengers of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 prays at the Lama Temple in Beijing
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Chinese relatives of passengers of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 hold incense sticks and pray at the Lama Temple in Beijing
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Intan Maizura Othman (34) wife of MH370 fligh attendant Hazrin Hasnan holds placard during an event to remember the 100th day of the missing crews and passengers of Malaysian Airlines plane MH370 in Damansara, Selangor
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A young relative tries to stick paper planes on a board during an event to remember the 100th day of the missing crews and passengers of Malaysian Airlines plane MH370 in Damansara, Selangor
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Pictures of crews and passengers is displayed during an event to remember the 100th day of the missing crews and passengers of Malaysian Airlines plane MH370 in Damansara, Selangor
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Chinese police men try to prevent relatives of Chinese passengers onboard the Malaysia Airlines MH370 from marching to the Malaysian embassy from a hotel in Beijing
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Boatswain's Mate, Able Seaman Morgan Macdonald (L) observing markers from a Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) P3K Orion at sea in the Southern Indian Ocean. An oil slick in the Indian Ocean is not from missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, officials said when insisting underwater search efforts would be 'pursued to their completion'
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Craig Turner from Phoenix International monitoring the Artemis' depth and speed as the Autonomous Underwater Vehicle scans the ocean floor for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH 370 in the southern Indian Ocean
He said: “We've got quite a lot of stories about ships that sank in the Indian Ocean mid-voyage and you would be struggling to tell which is which unless you had a complete catalogue of all the ones lost.”
Mr McCarthy said experts had predicted crews searching for MH370 would find the wreckage of other ships, but added it would be a difficult task to identify this ship.
He said those identifying the ship would need to get a closer look and know which ports it was travelling between.
He said: “Being a fairly common type of cargo ship from the 19th century with no obvious cargo remains there, I doubt that anyone would pay the enormous cost of going down to look at it.”
Officials last month announced the search area for MH370 was to be expanded in the Indian Ocean by a further 60,000 square kilometers if the plane was not found by the end of May.
Crews have now covered 75 per cent of the original search area, it has been reported.
Additional reporting by APReuse content