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MH370 hunt: oil slick detected in Indian Ocean

Crews searching for missing Malaysian jet will send submarine to probe ‘black box’ signals

Published: Updated:

An oil slick has been detected in the Indian Ocean within the search area for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370. However, the slick has yet to be analyzed, Agence France-Presse reported the Australian leading the operation as saying Monday.

“I can report that (Australian ship) Ocean Shield detected an oil slick yesterday evening in her current search area,” Angus Houston said.

Sub used for the first time

Meanwhile, search crews will for the first time send a sub deep into the Indian Ocean to try to determine whether signals detected by sound-locating equipment are from the missing Malaysian plane’s black boxes, Houston said.

The crew on board the Ocean Shield will launch the underwater vehicle as soon as possible, the Associated Press reported him as saying.

The Bluefin 21 autonomous sub can create a sonar map of the area to chart any debris on the seafloor.

The move comes after crews picked up a series of underwater sounds over the past two weeks that were consistent with an aircraft’s black boxes.

“We haven’t had a single detection in six days, and I guess it’s time to go under water,” said Houston at a news conference in Perth.

He added: “Analysis of the four signals has allowed the provisional definition of a reduced and manageable search area on the ocean floor. The experts have therefore determined that the Australian Defense Vessel Ocean Shield will cease searching with the towed pinger locator later today and deploy the autonomous underwater vehicle Bluefin 21 as soon as possible.”

But Houston warned the switch to the submarine will not automatically “result in the detection of the aircraft wreckage. It may not.”

Recovering the plane’s flight data and cockpit voice recorders is essential for investigators to try to figure out what happened to Flight 370, which vanished March 8.

It was carrying 239 people, mostly Chinese, while en route from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing.

(With AFP and Associated Press)