The search for the missing Malaysia Airlines passenger jet has entered a new phase, with the Australian government selecting a Dutch consulting firm to conduct a deep-water operation that could take up to a year to complete.
Two massive vessels equipped with deep-water vehicles and expert personnel will cross the southern Indian Ocean, Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said Wednesday.
The vessels, which will set off in September, could cover more than 20,000 square miles. The search will cost an estimated $48 million, according to CNN, with Australia taking the lead and the Malaysian government covering an unspecified portion of the bill.
I remain cautiously optimistic, Truss said at a news conference.
Friday marks the five-month anniversary of Flight MH370’s mysterious disappearance with 239 passengers on board. The hunt so far has been plagued by dead-end leads, bad weather and technical problems.
The search for answers – and wreckage – has been challenging, in part because so little is known about the ocean floor where the plane presumably crashed.
There are more accurate surveys of the surfaces of Mars and Venus than there are of that portion of the ocean floor – 250 times more accurate, as the Wall Street Journal recently reported.
Survey ships more than 1,000 miles off the coast of western Australia have covered about 60 percent of the priority search area so far, and the data will be converted into maps showing depths of up to 3 miles, with terrain ranging from flat slopes to underwater mountains.
For the new search effort, the Dutch firm Fugro was chosen over multiple contenders in the deep-sea explorer industry, including groups involved in the search for the Titanic in 1985 and the search for the Air France jetliner that crashed into the Atlantic in 2009.