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Malaysian MH370: Indian Ocean full of ‘possible evidence’

The Indian Ocean is so full of debris that everywhere you look you will find dozens of objects. On March 27 a new search area was announced, hundreds of miles from the “best evidence” from satellite photos. Are the objects from a plane? Could they just be pods of dolphins or part of the tons of garbage that floats in this watery dumpster? Are searchers and investigators seeing what they "want" to see in a desperate effort to find the missing jet?

Each day brings a new area of debris. On March 27 the search area was changed after new speculation on speed of the plane and use of fuel.
Each day brings a new area of debris. On March 27 the search area was changed after new speculation on speed of the plane and use of fuel.
Photo by Handout/Getty Images

Even as the new flight speed on MH370 was announced on the 27th, investigators admitted the new search zone was based on the presumption that the same speed and route was maintained the entire flight. Satellite photos only tell us that objects are there. The reality is that scientists will find hundreds of objects floating throughout the Indian Ocean no matter what area they actually look at. The “new evidence” is only meaningless hope until those objects are retrieved and identified as part of the jet.

With the world's eyes now scouring the Indian Ocean for any trace of the plane that was more than 240 feet long and weighed more than 700,000 pounds, the magnitude of the ocean debris problem has become evident.

"It isn't like looking for a needle in a haystack," Conservation International senior scientist M. Sanjayan said of the difficulty in finding the Boeing 777 aircraft. "It's like looking for a needle in a needle factory. It is one piece of debris among billions floating in the ocean."

Looking back over the past two weeks searchers have yet to find even the “large” objects which could be nothing more than shipping containers that fell off cargo haulers. No definitive records exist, but estimates for how many containers go overboard range from about 700 to as many as 10,000 of the roughly 100 million that the World Shipping Council says get shipped each year.

Other objects could be houses, trees, tires, and even appliances washed into the sea during the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia.

Charles Moore has been studying ocean trash for nearly 20 years at the Algalita Marine Research Institute in Long Beach, Calif. "The ocean has the distinction of being downhill from everywhere on earth. If you are looking to find out where trash comes from, you just have to look at the land," he said.

"The debris from the Banda Aceh tsunami may easily have gotten to this part of the ocean and could be floating around here 10 years later because plastic is so persistent in the ocean. It doesn't biodegrade, it doesn't rust," he said.

Moore estimates that there are 200 million tons of debris in the ocean now and another 15 million tons being added every year.

Jason Middleton, an aviation professor at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, told the Associated Press, "The chances of it being debris from the airplane are probably small, and the chances of it being debris from other shipping are probably large."

The large objects are still subject to discussion. Janet Porter, a shipping container industry journalist, has insisted that the object judged to be 78 feet in length is far too big to match the size of any shipping container in use. She said the largest container in use is only 45 feet, half the size of the floating object.

So where is MH370? Is it even in the Indian Ocean? Are investigators looking for evidence to fit a preconceived assumption or are they staying open to evidence that tells the true story of Malaysian fliight MH370?

On March 29 spotters on planes found some new debris. A ship will be near the debris later in the day. Will the objects become part of the final chapter of this story?

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