MH370: Geomar’s Denial

My efforts to locate MH370 were initially based on reverse drift models in which I assumed that the entire South Indian Ocean (SIO) moved water and passive objects somewhat uniformly. That isn’t entirely how things work in the SIO basin, partly due to Madagascar and its geographic location, but that is the framework I used.

I examined the drift patterns of every satellite-tracked drift buoy monitored by NOAA for 30+ years, if the buoy had been deployed west of the final ping. One of the hazards with that approach is that weather and rainfall patterns change over time, sometimes on a large scale, and when they do drift patterns change as well.

That early effort tried to determine where the Flaperon recovered on Reunion Island in 2015 began its journey toward Africa. The method pointed to a crash site slightly east of Batavia Seamount within Perth Basin, 400 km south of the Zenith Abyss. That was also the same general area where China’s Haixun-01 reported ULB pings in April 2014. I tentatively concluded there was a chance China located the plane.

A year or so later, when the plane still had not been located, I decided a more precise approach was to combine known ping ring locations with the same geometric principles New Zealand Astronomer Duncan Steel used to construct ping rings around Inmarsat’s 3-F1 tracking satellite.

By early 2018-9 I had adopted a “mirrored ping” model in which the final ping was simply flipped and overlaid on the original ping. That approach also helped define the limits of  final Arc. And with that new insight, the location was unmistakably at or near Zenith Plateau. But the fly in that approach was a satellite that wobbles. I insisted on an orthogonal model at that point, but eventually realized that strict orthogonal requirements only work with stationary satellites and 3-F1 wasn’t stationary enough for that. But the difference was small.

It wasn’t until late 2020 that I noticed “the object” on the seafloor at Zenith and determined there was enough agreement between predictions and available sonar to contact Geomar’s Principal Investigator for the 2017 R/V Sonne Cruise, Dr. Reinhard Werner. My email to him follows (email addresses redacted).

 

 

Dr. Werner replied as follows.

 

Dr. Werner’s denial that the Scripps imagery came from his 2017 cruise was a shock. First of all, I had already determined that no other bathymetric surveys of the Zenith Abyss had been recorded… in the history of the world, so to speak. Second, I was once again assured by Scripps’ David Sandwell, Ph.D. that all of the data came from the R/V Sonne Cruise: including the object Dr. Werner claimed lay “just outside the area” in which I was interested. The visual graphic Dr. Werner included to support his claim seemed to have been edited and selectively erased. At least that was my tentative conclusion.

So, I shopped around for experts in Kongsberg EM-122 processing. Sure enough, I was told unequivocally that the R/V Sonne cruise captured that object on the abyssal seafloor. Geomar deleted it from the original file before posting it to the public-access internet. However, Geomar sent the full unredacted file to Scripps in California and GEBCO in UK. The specialist tracked them all down. And, Voila!, when all of that data was merged to recreate the original data set, the object was clearly there. It could not have come from any source but Geomar’s 2017 Sonne cruise. Moreover, the object was even more obvious than it is in the Scripps version. (Scripps combines satellite LIDAR with multibeam data to enhance its visuals. So the LIDAR contribution in this instance made it slightly harder to figure out what we see in the Scripps data.) After processing, the technician sent me the following image, again confirming that it was obtained by the R/V Sonne in 2017. The technician speculated that the image may include a fuselage and wing, but concluded better imagery was needed. No disagreement, but expensive and hard to obtain.