MH370 search: Fugro Discovery embarks on mission to scan seabed

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After more than a week of sea trials, a new search vessel is on its way to the MH370 search zone, thousands of kilometres off the coast of Western Australia.

The Fugro Discovery left Perth today on a six-day journey to the southern part of the MH370 search zone.
 
The ship is carrying a so-called towfish, which will scan thousands of kilometres of the seabed of the Southern Indian Ocean with sonar beams emitted from its sides.
 
A multi-beam system will scan directly under the device.
 
The Fugro Discovery will tow the "fish" about 200 metres above the seafloor, in water up to 6.5 kilometres deep, looking for any wreckage.
 
It is a tricky enough operation trying to keep it at that level in such deep water - let alone not running it into an underwater volcano.
 
It is why the MH370 search teams have spent several months mapping the ocean floor with ship sonar to figure out exactly what is below them.
 
"When you go looking for an object on the seabed such as an aircraft, you have to use a sonar that’s very close to the seabed to do that," said underwater sound specialist Dr Alec Duncan from WA’s Curtin University.


"And you’re trying to do that in up to 6000 metres of water and you need to know the shape of the seabed quite well so you can keep your sonar at the right height above the seabed and not run it into things, which would be a big disaster, or having it flying too high where it can’t get good quality images.”
 
Although the search has already begun in the northern parts of the potential crash zone, the survey of the ocean floor is still underway.
 
It is due to finish in the coming weeks.
 
"It will tell us a lot about the geology of the area," Dr Duncan said.
 
"They’re not actually measuring the properties of the water column itself, or that at least isn’t a focus of what they’re doing, but the shape of the seabed, the types of features they see on the seabed and things like that will be pretty interesting.
 
"The Indian Ocean has not been anywhere near as well surveyed as other places like the Atlantic for example, so the more we find out about it the better from our point of view."
 
The Fugro Discovery can spend about two weeks scanning the area before it has to return to shore.
 
Fremantle port will be the staging place for the search ships.
 
Already searching the area, but now on the way to Fremantle is the GO Phoenix, which has scanned more than 670 kilometres of its assigned area.
 
And next month, a third search vessel will join the hunt when the Fugro Equator, now surveying the last of the search zone, will be reassigned to look for wreckage.
 
Dr Duncan said the sonar scan, which may take up to a year to complete, would be the best option to find if MH370 lies in the Southern Indian Ocean.
 
"With the technology that is being used for this search, it’s almost certain that they will find it if it’s there," he said.
 
Time will tell if this latest search effort will yield the answers the world, and the family and friends of those onboard, have been waiting for.

Source: World News Australia

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