Noise, Pollution Making MH370 Search Challenging

Written by on April 3, 2014 in Marine Life

On March 8, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared. Search efforts are ongoing, but the fate of the plane is still unknown.

The scale of the ocean and rough weather mean that search teams already have an incredibly challenging task, but now there have been reports of other factors hampering the search. From above the water, search teams have to sort possible wreckage from ordinary garbage. From below the water, search teams may have another problem: whale noise.

Ocean Pollution

Large marine debris.

Large marine debris. Photo credit: lsgcp via photopin cc.

There have been multiple reports of debris, but so far nothing has been confirmed to be related to the missing MH370. People who study marine debris are saying that these sightings could be of just about anything. Charles Moore, a sailor who studies marine debris at the Algalita Marine Research Institute, told the New York Times that “any search and rescue attempt will be hampered by untold quantities of debris.”

When we think of ocean pollution, a lot of us probably picture water bottles, those plastic rings around six-packs, and other small miscellaneous pieces of garbage. But, there is plenty of large debris in the ocean, too. Cargo containers, mattresses, and floating docks are just some of the things one might find.

For more information on ocean pollution, check out some of these links:

Underwater Noise

The aircraft is equipped with an underwater locator beacon that emits a “distinctive ping” at a frequency of 37.5 kHz once per second. The challenge is that there is a lot of other noise in the ocean from marine mammals, ships, and other sources.

Dr. Alec Duncan from the Centre for Marine Science and Technology at Curtin University explained to that, although they wouldn’t confuse the signal, background noises from marine mammals and other sources “may make it harder to detect.”

Read the full article here: Whale noise may hamper the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370’s black box.

For more on the missing flight, check out this timeline of events created by LiveScience and read Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s FAQ page.

Copyright © 2014 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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