The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 has yet to turn up any sign of the missing plane, but instead it has led to an unprecedented scientific find.
As search crews comb over large portions of the Indian Ocean off the coast of Australia, they have used high-tech sonar equipment to map the search area. In doing so, they have uncovered maps of the ocean floor more detailed than anything available before.
Scientists released much of their find on Friday, with color pictures of the search area for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370. The maps showed mount ranges with some peaks more than a mile high as well as a trench deeper than the Grand Canyon. There is also what scientists believe is an underwater volcano larger than Mount St. Helens.
“The recently acquired high-resolution bathymetry data has revealed many of these seabed features for the first time,” the Australian Transport Safety Bureau said.
Their area, known as Broken Ridge, makes for some unbelievable sights, researchers say.
“The terrain of the area around Broken Ridge makes the European Alps look like foothills,” said Dr. Simon Boxall, a lecturer in ocean and earth science at the University of Southampton. “If you stood in the valley you would have, towering above you, mountains that were about 3 km high – just coming straight up in front of you.”
While the search has turned up unprecedented views of the ocean floor, it has brought crews no closer to finding Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370. The flight vanished on March 8 during a trip from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board. There may be little hope for ever finding the flight, Boxall said, noting that it’s unlikely the plane will ever be found.
There could be more of the ocean floor to discover, however. The latest phase of the search for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 will include two ships – the Fugro Discovery and Malaysian-contracted GO Phoenix – going 3 miles beneath the ocean surface to map more of the floor using sound waves.