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A two-year search for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane has turned up two ancient shipwrecks

Reuters (Handout from US Navy)
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Published This article is more than 2 years old.

The continuing search for MH370, the Malaysia Airlines flight that vanished in 2014 with 239 people on board, hasn’t provided the answers that investigators and grieving families were looking for, but it hasn’t been entirely fruitless, either. In addition to finding a fragment that authorities think came from the missing aircraft, search parties have also made a few unrelated but interesting discoveries; the shocking extent of garbage floating around the sea was one early revelation, and now the remains of two uncharted shipwrecks have been found.

Officials at the Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC), an Australian agency established specifically for the MH370 search, announced today (Jan. 13) that they found a 19th-century shipwreck 3.7 kilometers beneath the sea surface.

Last month, one of JACC’s underwater robots captured high-resolution sonar images of the wreck, which officials said they turned over to archaeologists for review: “The Shipwreck Galleries of the Western Australian Museum have conducted a preliminary review of some sonar imagery and advised that the vessel is likely to be a steel/iron vessel dating from the turn of the 19th century.”

Australian Transport Safety Bureau
High-resolution sonar imagery of a ship that likely went down in the 1800s.

Remains of another shipwreck were discovered in May 2015, at which time Peter Foley, the head of the MH370 search, told the press, “It’s a fascinating find, but it’s not what we’re looking for,” and no resources would be wasted on investigating the shipwreck remains.

Foley noted that the find was nonetheless heartening because it demonstrated that the search technology was effective: “This event has really demonstrated that the systems, people and the equipment involved in the search are working well. It’s shown that if there’s a debris field in the search area, we’ll find it.”

The search for MH370 is supposed to span 120,000 square kilometers of the sea floor in total, according to Australia’s JACC. Since the plane disappeared in March 2014, approximately 80,000 square kilometers have been searched.

Australian Transport Safety Board
The JACC’s map of the area covered by its investigation.

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