MH370 search discovers 200-year-old shipwreck

The Australian government is conducting an ongoing search operation for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 which disappeared on March 8th, 2014, on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. There were 239 people on board. The Malaysian government asked Australia for help searching the southern Indian Ocean which satellite communications indicate is where the airplane was flying before its disappearance. The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB)has been scanning the seabed about 100 miles southwest of Perth since October of 2014.

There is as yet no trace of the aircraft, but on December 19th, 2015, one of the ships spotted an anomaly on the sonar. Analysis of the image suggested it was a man-made object, probably a shipwreck, but to be sure the search ship Havila Harmony sent down an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) to examine the anomaly. This area of the ocean floor is so mountainous it’s difficult to search with the deep tow sonar; the AUV can get detailed information on what’s down there without having to be tied to the ship.

On January 2nd, 2016, the AUV captured a high-resolution sonar image of the object which confirmed that it is indeed a shipwreck at a depth of 2.3 miles. The sonar imagery was sent to experts at the Shipwreck Galleries of the Western Australian Museum. Their preliminary conclusion is that the wreck is of steel or iron-hulled ship from the early 1800s.

Considering it sank 200 years ago landing on a rugged ocean floor, it looks to be in remarkable condition. It’s still shaped like a ship, only with a large curve in the middle it didn’t have when it was sailing the seas, and I see little scattered debris in this image. Early iron ships often had significant wood parts like planked weather decks, so there would have been plenty of material to scatter.

Compare it to the remains of ship discovered during the search in March of 2015. They were discovered at a depth of 2.5 miles, so the ship had a little longer to fall, but all that’s left of it is an anchor, some black balls that are probably lumps of coal and some unidentified man-made objects including a rectangle about 20 feet long.