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Australia releases MH370 sea floor data but search is still off

Minister celebrates lovely pictures of the sea floor, says he hopes new info is found

By Simon Sharwood, 19 Jul 2017

Geoscience Australia, the nation's agency for recording and sharing geographic and geological data, has released the first tranche of data captured during the search for missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370.

The search for MH370 saw 120,000km2 of the sea floor subjected to a bathymetric survey. Geoscience Australia (GA) says just 10 to 15 per cent of the entire ocean floor has been surveyed with equipment as accurate as used in the search for the missing Boeing 777, making the data released today unusual – doubly unusual given the search zone's remoteness.

Among the features revealed by the survey are “ridges six kilometres wide and 15 kilometres long that rise 1500 metres above the sea floor, and fault valleys 1200 metres deep and five kilometres wide.” The video below shows some of the survey's finds.

Youtube Video

GA has also released an impressive interactive story map in English, Chinese and Malay, telling the story of MH370 and efforts to find it. The agency has also made the data availablefrom Australia's National Computational Infrastructure or in an S3 bucket GA describes as residing at “s3://mh370.phase1.data.”

It's not GA's role to comment on whether the search should continue in light of new and newly-refined analyses suggesting the search zone covered in the data dump probably wasn't where the plane came down.

That job falls to Australia's minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Darren Chester, whose response to the data release from sees him say “No new information has been discovered to determine the specific location of the aircraft and the underwater search remains suspended.”

“We remain hopeful that new information will come to light and that at some point in the future the aircraft will be located.”

Just how such information will come to light is not explained. Family and friends of MH370's missing passengers therefore find themselves in a situation in which GA has been sufficiently sensitive to explain its data in Malay and Chinese, as many passengers on MH370 hailed from Malaysia and China, but no mechanism has been explained to revive the search.

The data dump is the first of two planned releases, the second due in "mid-2018". ®

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