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MH370 DECODED
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Geoscience Australia and the search for MH370

On Saturday, 8 March 2014 Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 departed from Kuala Lumpur International Airport at 00:42 am (MYT) and was expected to arrive in Beijing at 6:30 am (MYT). The Boeing 777-200ER was carrying 12 crew and 227 passengers. Communication with the aircraft was lost when it was in the vicinity of waypoint IGARI over the South China Sea. Instead of proceeding toward Vietnam en-route to China the aircraft made a turn-back west across the Malay Peninsula; changed direction again and flew north west towards the Andaman Sea; and then turned south. Flight MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean.

After initial air and sea searches, the governments of Malaysia, Australia and the People’s Republic of China agreed that Australia would take the lead in the underwater search operation in the southern Indian Ocean.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) led the underwater search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in the southern Indian Ocean, including analysis of the search area, the sea floor mapping and sea floor search.

Geoscience Australia provided specialist advice and capability in the sea floor mapping and underwater search and provided an understanding of the environment in which the search was conducted.

Source: MH370 - Data Release, Geoscience Australia


Resources

The following resources have been made available by Geoscience Australia:-

  1. Geoscience Australia website
    http://www.ga.gov.au

  2. MH370 - Data Release
    This article introduces the work done by Geoscience Australia in support of the ATSB and contains links to multimedia content.
    http://www.ga.gov.au/about/projects/marine/mh370-data-release

  3. Story Map
    A multimedia presentation titled The data behind the search for MH370

  4. Bathymetry
    An article which explains Bathymetry - the study and mapping of the sea floor - with links to 3D animations, produced by Geoscience Australia.
    http://www.ga.gov.au/scientific-topics/marine/survey-techniques/bathymetry

  5. Sidescan sonar
    This article, an explanation of Sidescan sonar, contains a Sidescan sonar image showing a shipwreck located in the MH370 search area, discovered in December 2015
    https://www.ga.gov.au/scientific-topics/marine/survey-techniques/sonar/sidescan-sonar

The Report The Operational Search for MH370, by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, contains many references to analyses performed by Geoscience Australia, and can be downloaded from the page for the External Investigation AE-2014-054 on the ATSB website.

Terminology
Bathymetry
The study and mapping of seafloor topography. It involves obtaining measurements of the ocean depth and is equivalent to mapping topography on land.
Side Scan Sonar
A sonar system which uses acoustic pings to form an image of the seafloor. Typically, a side scan sonar consists of two transducers, located in either side of a tow vehicle, AUV or ROV, each of which generates a fan-shaped sonar ping perpendicular to the vessel track.
A sonar system which uses sophisticated post-processing of sonar data to combine a number of sonar pings to form an image with higher resolution than conventional sonar.
Sonar contact
Any anomaly on the seafloor identified in sonar data that looks non-geologic in nature or unusual when compared to the surrounding seafloor.
Synthetic Aperture Sonar
A sonar system which uses sophisticated post-processing of sonar data to combine a number of sonar pings to form an image with higher resolution than conventional sonar.

Source: The Operational Search for MH370, Australian Transport Safety Bureau, 3 October 2017