BEIJING — An Australian ship hunting for missing
The vessel Ocean Shield, towing an acoustic detection device lent by the
Houston said authorities were not ready to deploy a sonar-equipped underwater vessel to scan the seafloor for debris. He noted, however, that the last signal was "very weak" and that the time to deploy the underwater vehicle was "not very far away."
The Ocean Shield can search six times as much area as a submersible can in the same time, Houston said.
"We need to make hay while the sun shines," Houston said. Batteries on the black boxes are designed to last 30 days, and the search entered its 33rd day Wednesday, he noted. The
The ocean where the pings were detected is extremely deep — more than 2.5 miles — and analysis shows the seabed has high levels of silt that may be "tens of meters" thick, potentially complicating the search, Houston said.
"We know more about the surface of the moon than our own seabed," said Australian Navy Commodore Peter Leavy.
A plane was deployed Wednesday to drop sonar buoys equipped with hydrophones that descend 1,000 feet below the surface, and which can transmit any sound back to search aircraft via radio, Leavy added.
The search area, about 1,400 miles northwest of Perth, has been "significantly reduced" to about 28,000 square miles, Houston said, enabling a "much more thorough" search.
Houston cautioned that it took 20 days for an underwater search vehicle to locate the wreckage of the