Search crews were for the first time sending a sub deep into the Indian Ocean to try and determine whether faint sounds detected by equipment on board an Australian ship are from the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 plane's black boxes, Australia's acting prime minister said Tuesday.
Warren Truss, Australia's acting prime minister while Tony Abbott is overseas, said the crew on board the Ocean Shield will launch the underwater vehicle, the Bluefin 21 autonomous sub, on Tuesday. The unmanned miniature sub can create a sonar map of the area to chart any Malaysia Airlines debris on the sea floor. If it maps out a debris field, the crew will replace the sonar system with a camera unit to photograph any wreckage.
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Angus Houston, who is heading the search, said Monday that the Ocean Shield, which is towing sophisticated US Navy listening equipment, detected late Saturday and early Sunday two distinct, long-lasting sounds underwater that are consistent with the pings from an aircraft's "black boxes" - the flight data and cockpit voice recorders. Houston dubbed the find "a most promising lead" in the monthlong hunt for clues to the plane's fate, but warned it could take days to determine whether the sounds were connected to Malaysia Airlines MH370.
Crews have been trying to re-locate the sounds since Sunday, but have thus far had no luck, Truss said.
“Today is another critical day as we try and reconnect with the signals that perhaps have been emanating from the black box flight recorder of the Malaysia Airlines MH370," he said. “The connections two days ago were obviously a time of great hope that there had been a significant breakthrough and it was disappointing that we were unable to repeat that experience yesterday.''
Truss said the crew would use the sub Tuesday to examine the water in the search area in the hopes of another breakthrough.
Finding the Malaysia Airlines MH370 black boxes is key to unraveling what happened to Flight 370, because they contain flight data and cockpit voice recordings that could explain why the plane veered so far off-course during its flight from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing on March 8.
But time was running out to find the devices, whose locator beacons have a battery life of about a month. Tuesday marks exactly one month since the plane vanished.
“Everyone's anxious about the life of the