Bluefin 21, Chinese survey ship start search mission: JACC

May 22, 2014 - via Joint Agency Coordination Centre

CANBERRA, May 22  -- The Autonomous Underwater Vehicle, Bluefin-21, was deployed from Australian vessel Ocean Shield at around 2 a.m. on Thursday morning to continue its search mission, the Joint Agency Coordination Center (JACC) confirmed Thursday.

The Australian vessel Ocean Shield arrived last Sunday at Geraldton, Western Australia, to begin preparations to receive spare parts related to the transponder mounted on the Ocean Shield and the transponder mounted on the Autonomous Underwater Vehicle, Bluefin-21 at Geraldton, Western Australia.

The JACC said Monday that repairs are necessary to correct a hardware issue affecting the ability of the transponders to communicate with each other during a dive. The problem became apparent during Bluefin-21's last mission on Tuesday.

According to Thursday's statement, the JACC confirmed that Bluefin-21 will search the remaining areas over the next week in the vicinity of the acoustic signals detected in early April by the Towed Pinger Locator deployed from Ocean Shield that are within its depth operating limits. "This continues the process that will ultimately enable the search team to discount or confirm the area of the acoustic signals as the final resting place of MH370,"the JACC said in this statement.

The JACC added that Ocean Shield is anticipated to depart the search area on May 28 and return to Fleet Base West on May 31 where it will demobilize the Autonomous Underwater Vehicle equipment and disembark the support team.
In addition, the Chinese survey ship Zhu Kezhen departed Fremantle Wednesday to begin conducting the bathymetric survey of the areas provided by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau.

According to the JACC, the bathymetric survey -- or mapping of the ocean floor -- is being done in preparation for a commercially contracted deep ocean search, including towed side-scan sonar operations.

The statement also confirmed that Chinese ship Haixun 01 will begin transiting to the survey area to support the survey operations on Thursday, including the weekly transportation of survey data to Fremantle for further processing by Geoscience Australia. "The Australian Defence Force's Military Coordination and Sub- Surface Planning team, in consultation with the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, will partner with Chinese units to conduct the survey,"the JACC said.

According to the JACC, the work continues to review and analyze all the data and information relating to the likely flight path of MH370, together with the information acquired in the course of the search to date. This work will confirm the best areas on which to focus an effective future search.

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