Ships Rush to Locate “Pings” in Last-Ditch Effort Before Black Box Batteries Die Out

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
April 6 2014 1:47 PM

Ships Rush to Locate “Pings” in Last-Ditch Effort Before Black Box Batteries Die Out

483031019-woman-reads-prayers-and-well-wishes-on-a-wall-for
A woman reads prayers and well-wishes on a wall for passengers onboard missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 during a mass prayer in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday

Photo by MOHD RASFAN/AFP/Getty Images

Ships carrying underwater search equipment and airplanes rushed to the southern Indian Ocean on Sunday to try to investigate whether a series of brief acoustic signals heard over the past few days could be related to missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. And it’s a race against time as the batteries that power the locator beacons could run out at any moment. The batteries are estimated to have a life span of a month and Sunday is the 30th day of the search operation, notes the Washington Post.

The searchers are now focusing on two broad areas. First, in a place where a Chinese patrol ship detected a pulse signal with a frequency of 37.5kHz, similar to what flight recorders emit, on Friday and Saturday. And also some 300 nautical miles away, where an Australian ship recorded a separate “acoustic event,” details The Age. "The fact we've had two acoustic events in that location provides some promise, which requires a full investigation of the location," Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, the head of the search's Joint Agency Coordination Center, said on Sunday.

Despite the renewed optimism, officials also cautioned the signals were “fleeting encounters” and there were questions about whether they wouldn’t just end up being another series of dead ends “in a hunt seemingly full of them,” as the Associated Press notes. Investigators “are encouraged but cautious,” writes the BBC’s Jon Donnison.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.

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