Australians get ‘promising lead’ in search for missing Malaysian plane

BY Ellen Rolfes  April 7, 2014 at 11:06 AM EST

Australian Defense Vessel Ocean Shield has found what may be new evidence pointing to the location of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370's black box. But it could take a few days for officials to confirm whether this "promising lead" is linked to the missing aircraft. Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Hpeterswald

Australian Defense Vessel Ocean Shield has found what may be new evidence pointing to the location of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370′s black box. But it could take a few days for officials to confirm whether this “promising lead” is linked to the missing aircraft. Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Hpeterswald

An Australian navy ship detected signals that are consistent with the pings that come from aircraft black boxes underwater on Saturday and Sunday.

Many hope that this could be the missing black box from Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, which vanished on March 7. Officials leading the search for the missing aircraft have cautiously called this a “most promising lead.”

The signals were picked up by the ship Ocean Shield in the Indian Ocean, west of the Australian Coast. Crewmembers are using advanced U.S. Navy sound detectors, which can detect pings up to 4,500 meters — more than 14,750 feet — below the surface of the ocean. But in order to track signals, U.S. Navy Capt. Mark Matthews told reporters in Perth, Australia, that the sound detectors must be directly above the object.

“It’s like playing hot and cold when you’re searching for something and someone’s telling you you’re getting warmer and warmer and warmer,” Matthews said. “When you’re right on top of it you get a good return.”

These signals differ from those detected by Chinese ships on Saturday. The Ocean Shield’s lead is about 300 nautical miles away from the location of pulse signals picked up by China’s Haixun 01 ship.

Australian officials say it could take from a few hours to a few days to confirm whether or not the pings are related to Flight 370.