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PUBLISHED: Mar 28, 2014 5:05pm

Whale noises might hamper search for black box, says marine expert

Blue Whale Balaenoptera musculus 29 July 2010 - It is somewhat r


Whale sounds are said to pose a challenge to the search and rescue operation in the southern Indian Ocean in efforts to locate MAS Flight MH370's blackbox. — File pic

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The team involved in one of the most challenging hunts for the black box of the missing Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight MH370 will face yet another obstacle. This time from whales.

Australian news agency quoted a marine expert from Curtin University’s Centre for Marine Science and Technology as revealing this challenge.

Dr Alec Duncan told the news agency that oceans were “extremely noisy” places, with noises emitted by marine mammals among the many background sounds posing difficulties to the search mission.

“They wouldn’t confuse the signal, but it may make it harder to detect based on the background noise from whales and other sources,” he was quoted as saying.

The news agency reported that the underwater locator beacon attached to a aircraft cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder, emitted a distinctive ping sound at a frequency of 37.5 kHz once per second while marine mammals made sounds on different frequencies.

Duncan said the search team would need to get as close as possible to the beacon to limit sound absorption within the water and interference.

“The Southern Ocean is a hell of a noisy place because of the weather,” quoted Duncan.

“It’s not a calm part of the world and that will limit the detection range.

“There’s quite a lot of things going on.”

The search area for MH370 has been updated today following a new credible lead, according to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (Amsa).

Based on information given by the international investigation team in Malaysia, Amsa, in its statement, said the search would now “shift to an area 1,100km to the northeast”.

The decision to shift  followed advice from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), saying it was the most credible lead to where the debris might be located.

Australia is currently taking the lead in the search and rescue operation for the missing MH370 in the southern Indian Ocean.

It was earlier reported that satellite data from China as well as Australia, and later France, indicated possible debris sighting 2,500km south west of Perth.

The search and rescue operation faced deteriorating weather conditions yesterday and had to  call off operations just before noon.

It resumed this morning as weather conditions had reportedly improved. A Chinese Ilyushin IL-76 aircraft took off from Pearce Base in Perth and headed towards the search area.

Another 9 aircraft have also been tasked to participate in today’s search.

According to Amsa, the new search area is roughly 319,000 square kilometres and estimated to be 1,850km west of Perth.

“The new information is based on continuing analysis of radar data between the South China Sea and the Straits of Malacca before radar contact was lost,” the statement said, adding that analysis indicated the plane was travelling faster than previously estimated.



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