ADV Ocean Shield has arrived back in the search area. The Autonomous Underwater Vehicle, Bluefin-21, was deployed from the vessel around 2am this morning. It remains underwater on its search mission.
Over the next week, Bluefin-21 will search the remaining areas in the vicinity of the acoustic signals detected in early April by the Towed Pinger Locator deployed from Ocean Shield that are within its depth operating limits.
This continues the process that will ultimately enable the search team to discount or confirm the area of the acoustic signals as the final resting place of MH370.
Ocean Shield is anticipated to depart the search area on 28 May and return to Fleet Base West on 31 May where it will demobilise the Autonomous Underwater Vehicle equipment and disembark the support team.
The Chinese survey ship Zhu Kezhen departed Fremantle yesterday to begin conducting the bathymetric survey of the areas provided by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau. The bathymetric survey—or mapping of the ocean floor—is being done in preparation for a commercially contracted deep ocean search, including towed side-scan sonar operations.
Chinese ship Haixun 01 will today begin transiting to the survey area to support the survey operations, including the weekly transportation of survey data to Fremantle for further processing by Geoscience Australia.
The Australian Defence Force’s Military Coordination and Sub-Surface Planning team, in consultation with the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, will partner with Chinese units to conduct the survey.
The work continues to review and analyse all the data and information relating to the likely flight path of MH370, together with the information acquired in the course of the search to date. This work will confirm the best areas on which to focus an effective future search.
Press Release, May 22, 2014; Image: Australian Navy