Shipwreck discovered during hunt for Malaysia 370
It’s been almost two years since the disappearance of the Boeing 777 operated by Malaysia Airlines as Flight 370, and in that time the search has been the most extensive in history and has yielded no results. Well, none specifically related to Flight 370, that is. A few weeks ago a ship doing a sonar scan of the floor of the Indian Ocean where the plane is thought to have gone down after a long silent flight made a remarkable discovery on the ocean floor more than 12,000 feet down.
At first all the searchers knew was that they’d found what was probably a man-made object. When they went in for a closer look using a drone submarine with high-resolution cameras, they learned they were right. The only thing was the manmade object wasn’t a 21st Century jet but a 19th Century ship lost at sea a long, long time ago.
When I heard of this latest find, I had mixed emotions. To be honest, it rekindled my hope that Flight 370 might someday be found. So far, the only evidence that has emerged is a wing flap that washed ashore on remote Reunion Island in 2015. You might think that such a remarkable discovery would have helped narrow the search, but it didn’t. The ocean is a crazy knot of currents that somehow deposited that piece of debris on the shore thousands of miles, most likely, from the actual crash. It’s an impossible problem to work backward. Investigators can only conclude that the debris floated for a long time and for a long distance, taking the discovery as hopeful confirmation that they were searching in the right place all along.
That place, that seemingly limitless tract ocean is wide and impossibly deep, much of it even deeper than the floor on which the unnamed ship rests, seen again but never to be recovered.
There is hope to be found in the discovery, though. (It’s actually the second ancient shipwreck that searchers have found). It should remind us all that the technology is ready, the great steel hulled ships, seams strung with thousands of miles of wire, colorful otherworldly robot submarines on deck, at the ready to dive deep, that the high-tech tools work, that it’s theoretically possible that searchers might by luck and algorithms run across the wreck of Flight 370. Then we might learn the truth. Maybe.
My other reaction was one of sadness. The unknown sailors who died on that still unknown ship probably 200 years ago now went missing, just like the passengers and crew of Flight 370. There wasn’t 24/7 news coverage of that disaster, but they have been finally found.
The search matters for that and for the hope it brings.
Will searchers discover a shadow soon? A hint of something manmade, debris arranged at an angle that nature doesn’t know. Might such a suggestion of order prompt searchers to send the robot sub into the inky black once more? And might that next glimpse be of metal and giant engines? And might it lead us to black boxes, holding their secrets, perhaps, and the truth?
That’s the hope. It’s safe to say we all want that outcome.
It might never be, though. We might be looking in the wrong place after all. If so, we’ll find nothing but ocean floor and the ghosts of ancient ships.
If so, it could be another 200 years before the truth of Malaysia Flight 370 is discovered, though it at least will have a name.