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Transcript: Search for MH370

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On 8 March 2014, Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 disappeared with 239 passengers and crew on board. The flight was travelling from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

An international search was immediately launched to find Malaysian Airlines flight MH370.

The search area was identified early as along the 7th arc in the southern Indian Ocean—a thin but long line that includes all the possible points where the last known communication between the aircraft and a communications satellite could have taken place.

The expert satellite working group—comprised of the best international minds in this field—is continually refining analysis of the available data to identify the areas of the highest priority for the search.

It is along the 7th arc that the search for MH370 is now concentrated.

The search for Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 requires a high degree of international cooperation and expertise to succeed.

Australia, Malaysia and the People's Republic of China are all contributing significant assets and resources to the search.

Searching for MH370 is a complicated task. The search area is a long way from land, the water is very deep and the sea floor is largely uncharted.

To help find the missing aircraft, a bathymetric survey of the sea floor is carried out followed by a detailed underwater search using towed submersible vehicles fitted with sonar systems which will be used to detect the aircraft.

Within the search area, very little is known about the sea floor. This is why it is necessary to map the sea floor in this remote region of the Indian Ocean.

Bathymetry is the study and mapping of the seafloor. It involves obtaining measurements of the depth of the ocean and is equivalent to mapping on land. Bathymetry uses sonar waves to gather detailed information about the shape and composition of the sea floor. Analysis of the information allows a three dimensional picture of the sea floor to be drawn.

Once the surveys are completed, they will also guide the submersible vehicles used in the comprehensive underwater search.

Since May, bathymetric operations have been underway in the search area.

The bathymetric operation in the search area has identified that the waters are extremely deep—up to 6 kilometres in some areas. Daylight can only penetrate a very short distance, and on the deep sea floor there is no light to see by.

The comprehensive underwater search uses vessels equipped with deep water submersibles vehicles towed along behind the vessel.

They descend many kilometres to travel a short distance above the sea floor, where they can build a much more detailed picture of any possible objects of interest on the sea floor.

As this film shows, the search area is very large. Until now, little detail was known about the shape and depth of the ocean floor. Gathering this information helps ensure a thorough and safe search of the sea floor.

The governments of Australia, Malaysia and the People's Republic of China will all continue to provide information and support as the search continues.