Experts say rare to find ‘large objects’ in Indian Ocean, raising hopes in MH370 search

Hopes have been raised that the objects shown in blurry satellite images of the southern Indian Ocean could indeed be from the missing Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777.

This followed several marine experts who said that it was extremely unusual to find large floating objects in the area.

The Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) quoted a marine scientist Robin Beaman as saying that it was unlikely that objects shown on satellite images were shipping containers, beds of seaweed, trees and trawling nets.

"The scale is important and until we see it up close, we can't discount that it might be from the crash site," said Dr Robin Beaman of James Cook University in Queensland.

"Even big freight containers, the biggest ones, are not as long as the object in the images. The scale is pretty significant," he told SMH.

Last Saturday, acting Transport Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said Chinese authorities had satellite images showing a floating object measuring 22.5m by 13m.

China's Xinhua news agency had reported that a suspicious object spotted by a Chinese satellite was floating 120km from possible debris announced by Australia two days earlier.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott had said that two objects – one measuring 24m across – possibly part of the missing aircraf, had been sighted in satellite images taken from the current search area, 2,500km southwest of Perth.

Yesterday, Malaysia revealed that it had received new satellite images from French authorities showing potential debris from the plane, in the southern corridor of the search.

Beaman said it was important that the objects be located as soon as possible before they undergo further degradation so that experts could determine how currents had moved them in the past two weeks.

He said the marine debris could have floated hundreds of kilometres away from where it started, including off the coast of South Africa or South America.

If the point of origin could be determined, a search could then be carried out underwater for the plane's black box and heavier debris that would have immediately sunk, he said.

"I wouldn't rule anything out entirely because like anything in the ocean, for every rule there is an exception," he told SMH.

The paper also quoted University of Western Sydney oceanographer Charitha Pattiaratchi as saying that the area where the images were captured and wooden pallets were found was outside normal shipping lanes, and away from circular currents in which waste often accumulated.

"Usually things that have been in the ocean for a long time are either under the surface or sink or break down into much smaller pieces," SMH quoted Professor Pattiaratchi as saying.

"To see a large object like that, then certainly it is credible (it is wreckage). It is extremely unusual.

He said each ocean has "a big gyre" (circular current) which collects debris, sometimes accumulating in the centre.

However, he said the search area is thousands of kilometres from the region.

"The southern Indian ocean is an area which is relatively free of debris," he added.

University of Sydney's Unesco chair in marine science, Elaine Baker, told SMH that there was such a "huge amount of rubbish" in the ocean that it was often hazardous for ships.

"But the thing is the ocean is so vast, coming across something really large is probably quite rare," she had said. – March 24, 2014.