Given the past month's worth of false starts, red herrings, and dead ends, its becoming increasingly difficult to get optimistic about each development in the search for flight 370. Still, here's the latest one, which comes as the battery on the 777 jetliner's black box pinger is believed to be nearly exhausted, via the New York Times:
An Australian naval ship searching for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane in the Indian Ocean has detected a series of underwater signals in the last two days “consistent with” those of a plane’s data and cockpit voice recorders, possibly from the missing jet, officials involved in the multinational search said Monday.
“Clearly, this is a most promising lead,” Angus Houston, the lead coordinator of the search, said at a news conference in Perth, Australia. He called the signals “probably the best information that we have had” in the search, which over the past three weeks has migrated across a vast area of the Indian Ocean hundreds of miles off the west coast of Australia. “I’m much more optimistic than I was a week ago,” he said.
Officials are stressing that they have yet to confirm that the signals are indeed from the missing jetliner (that could take a few more days), and even if they do they'll still have plenty of work to do to actually find the wreckage—and then go about piecing together exactly what happened aboard it in the hours after it vanished after taking off from Kuala Lumpur on March 8.
If the signals really are coming from the plane's black box, it would be all the more remarkable because the search effort has only been using the underwater listening technology since this past Friday. The underwater search is "targeted" in the sense that officials focused the effort on where they think they have the best chance at detecting a ping, but they admitted last week that they had no new specific information that prompted the decision to go underwater. (The devices, in the words of the Associated Press, "were brought into the effort because there was nothing to lose.") Despite a number of at-the-time promising leads from satellite images and search planes sweeping the area, the search effort has yet to turn up a single piece of debris that can be linked to the missing 777 jetliner.