The hunt for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane took an extraordinary twist last night when China said it may have detected a signal from its black box recorder on the floor of the Indian Ocean.
The faint signal was picked up by a Chinese search vessel on the twenty-ninth day of the hunt for Flight MH370, just hours before the recorder’s batteries were expected to die.
China’s state-run news agency said the search vessel Haixun 01 picked up the signal on the precise frequency used by black box recorders in a search zone hundreds of miles off the west coast of Australia.
Scroll down for video
A Chinese ship is said to have detected a ‘pulse signal’ in the southern Indian Ocean today
A white floating object spotted by Chinese air force in the southern Indian Ocean today
The signal was detected using a black box detector – a remote- controlled missile-shaped submersible – at around 25 degrees south latitude and 101 degrees east longitude, according to a Chinese journalist on board the ship.
The signal was picked up for only 90 seconds, suggesting, remarkably, that if it did come from the plane’s black box recorder it may have been the final output before the battery died at the end of its 30-day life.
Later, the Xinhua news agency said a Chinese airforce plane had spotted ‘several white objects’ floating on the surface of the ocean 1,680 miles from Perth at 11.05am yesterday. The debris was just 55 miles from the area where the ping was detected.
A huge underwater search was expected to be launched at daylight to see if the ship has found the Boeing 777, which disappeared less than an hour into a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8 with 239 passengers and crew on board.
Britain’s HMS Echo – carrying sophisticated equipment that can hear the recorder’s pings – has joined the hunt and robot submersibles from an Australian search team are expected to be sent down where the ocean is up to two miles deep. An 11-strong international flotilla is searching a vast area of the southern Indian Ocean for the plane.
To hear the black box signals the Chinese ship would have needed to be almost directly above the shoebox-sized black box, which was housed in the plane’s tail section.
The discovery would be unprecedented as black box recorders have only ever been found after a field of debris was detected first.
The potential discovery came as Malaysia vowed it would not give up on trying to find the missing jetliner and announced details of a multinational investigation team to solve the aviation mystery, as the search for the plane entered its fifth week
Hishammuddin Hussein, (right) Malaysia’s defense minister and acting transport minister, told reporters in Kuala Lumpur that the cost of mounting the search was immaterial compared to providing solace for the families of those on board by establishing what happened
Malaysia and Australia, which is in charge of the Indian Ocean search, greeted the news with cautious optimism last night but advised people to wait for developments, anxious that it could turn out to be another false lead.
In the first week after the plane disappeared, China announced through Xinhua that it had satellite images of what might be debris from the missing flight in the South China Sea, only to claim later the data had been put out in error.
China informed Australian officials about the black box signals at lunchtime on Saturday before breaking ranks to announce the discovery shortly after Malaysian officials told journalists at a daily briefing that there had been no new developments in the search.
Teams are searching for two black boxes like this one which investigators hope will reveal what happened on board the doomed flight
U.S. Navy Captain Mark Matthews with the pinger locator which has now reached the remote search area in the Indian Ocean where investigators hope it will pick up a signal from MH370′s black boxes
Clinging to hope: A underwater pinger locator (above) which is capable of detecting signals from MH370′s black boxes has reached the search zone in the Indian Ocean on board the Australian navy ship Ocean Shield
A government source in Kuala Lumpur said: ‘We sincerely hope the black box recorder has been found but our main concern is for the relatives of those missing, and we feel the way the Chinese government has announced this is not appropriate. It smacks of one-upmanship.’
Chinese nationals account for 157 of the passengers on the plane.
If debris or the black box cannot be found, the only hope for finding the plane may be a full survey of the Indian Ocean floor, an operation that would take years.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2597630/Chinese-ship-looking-missing-Malaysia-Airlines-plane-detects-black-box-pulse-signal-southern-Indian-Ocean.html#ixzz2y5THyCEx
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook