Oil slick found in MH370 search area

The saga begins on March 8, when Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 departs Kuala Lumpur at 12:41am, local time. On board are 227 passengers and 12 crew.
The saga begins on March 8, when Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 departs Kuala Lumpur at 12:41am, local time. On board are 227 passengers and 12 crew.
Captaining the flight of the Boeing 777-200 is 53-year old Zaharie Ahmad Shah, shown here on the right.
Captaining the flight of the Boeing 777-200 is 53-year old Zaharie Ahmad Shah, shown here on the right.
At 1:21am the MH370's transponder stops signalling, halting the regular responses it usually gives to radar signals. The plane makes a series of strange but controlled movements, turning west sharply, then climbing above its designed height limit and back down.
At 1:21am the MH370's transponder stops signalling, halting the regular responses it usually gives to radar signals. The plane makes a series of strange but controlled movements, turning west sharply, then climbing above its designed height limit and back down.
At 1.30am, on point 4, the plane is spotted for the last time on civilian radar. At 2.15am, on point 5, military radar spots it, although it is not clear at the time that this was MH370. Satellite data suggests the plane could also have angled towards point 6.
At 1.30am, on point 4, the plane is spotted for the last time on civilian radar. At 2.15am, on point 5, military radar spots it, although it is not clear at the time that this was MH370. Satellite data suggests the plane could also have angled towards point 6.
At 6.32am air traffic control in Kuala Lumpur sends a radio signal on an emergency channel asking MH370 to contact them. The plane is now overdue at Beijing Airport, shown.
At 6.32am air traffic control in Kuala Lumpur sends a radio signal on an emergency channel asking MH370 to contact them. The plane is now overdue at Beijing Airport, shown.
Relatives of passengers despair, and the search begins.
Relatives of passengers despair, and the search begins.
International news media focus on the story immediately.
International news media focus on the story immediately.
Multiple false leads pop up, like this oil spotted by a Vietnamese search plane.
Multiple false leads pop up, like this oil spotted by a Vietnamese search plane.
Malaysian government and airline officials have released confusing and contradictory information. Here, Malaysian Airlines CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya, left, and Department of Civil Aviation director general Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman take questions at a press conference.
Malaysian government and airline officials have released confusing and contradictory information. Here, Malaysian Airlines CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya, left, and Department of Civil Aviation director general Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman take questions at a press conference.
Concerns are raised when it becomes apparent that two Iranian men, shown here, boarded the plane with stolen passports. Interpol rejects the suggestion of terrorism, however, concluding the men were probably asylum seekers.
Concerns are raised when it becomes apparent that two Iranian men, shown here, boarded the plane with stolen passports. Interpol rejects the suggestion of terrorism, however, concluding the men were probably asylum seekers.
The search intensifies, covering new areas with a wide array of international support.
The search intensifies, covering new areas with a wide array of international support.
The search intensifies, covering new areas with a wide array of international support.
The search intensifies, covering new areas with a wide array of international support.
The search intensifies, covering new areas with a wide array of international support.
The search intensifies, covering new areas with a wide array of international support.
The search intensifies, covering new areas with a wide array of international support.
The search intensifies, covering new areas with a wide array of international support.
The search intensifies, covering new areas with a wide array of international support.
The search intensifies, covering new areas with a wide array of international support.
Outpourings of grief and support are expressed worldwide.
Outpourings of grief and support are expressed worldwide.
Outpourings of grief and support are expressed worldwide.
Outpourings of grief and support are expressed worldwide.
Outpourings of grief and support are expressed worldwide.
Outpourings of grief and support are expressed worldwide.
Outpourings of grief and support are expressed worldwide.
Outpourings of grief and support are expressed worldwide.
Outpourings of grief and support are expressed worldwide.
Outpourings of grief and support are expressed worldwide.
The anguish of the relatives is palpable.
The anguish of the relatives is palpable.
The anguish of the relatives is palpable.
The anguish of the relatives is palpable.
The anguish of the relatives is palpable.
The anguish of the relatives is palpable.
The anguish of the relatives is palpable.
The anguish of the relatives is palpable.
Theories abound. Fellow pilot Chris Goodfellow has suggested that a tyre may have caught fire, causing the pilots to turn towards the closest suitable airport, with the rapid ascent and descent perhaps representing an attempt to extinguish the fire. Critics of this theory have pointed out that the change in path was programmed into the plane's computer 12 minutes before the calm toned "good night" transmission, suggesting the change in course was planned.
Theories abound. Fellow pilot Chris Goodfellow has suggested that a tyre may have caught fire, causing the pilots to turn towards the closest suitable airport, with the rapid ascent and descent perhaps representing an attempt to extinguish the fire. Critics of this theory have pointed out that the change in path was programmed into the plane's computer 12 minutes before the calm toned "good night" transmission, suggesting the change in course was planned.
Given the amount of fuel on board, the plane could have made it as far north as Kazakhstan, on a possible flight path shown in orange.
Given the amount of fuel on board, the plane could have made it as far north as Kazakhstan, on a possible flight path shown in orange.
Or somewhere southwest of Australia, on a possible flight path shown in orange.
Or somewhere southwest of Australia, on a possible flight path shown in orange.
Others have speculated that the pilot or co-pilot may have intentionally crashed the plane. The FBI is trying to restore deleted simulator-flights from Pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah's computer – but these could be innocuous. Critics of the crash theory say neither the pilot nor co-pilot had ever expressed any kind of radical sentiment or displayed mental issues, and both possessed adequate flying experience.
Others have speculated that the pilot or co-pilot may have intentionally crashed the plane. The FBI is trying to restore deleted simulator-flights from Pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah's computer – but these could be innocuous. Critics of the crash theory say neither the pilot nor co-pilot had ever expressed any kind of radical sentiment or displayed mental issues, and both possessed adequate flying experience.
The ever-present worry of terrorism remains. No groups have claimed responsibility for the incident, and a political motivation is unclear - but that doesn't rule it out.
The ever-present worry of terrorism remains. No groups have claimed responsibility for the incident, and a political motivation is unclear - but that doesn't rule it out.
On March 20, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told his parliament that objects had been spotted in waters hundreds of kilometres off the western Australian coast. Further searches, by Australian, New Zealand and US planes, were needed to find out if they were part of the missing plane.
On March 20, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told his parliament that objects had been spotted in waters hundreds of kilometres off the western Australian coast. Further searches, by Australian, New Zealand and US planes, were needed to find out if they were part of the missing plane.
The crew of one of two Chinese Air Force Ilyushin Il-76 aircraft used in the search for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 walk away from their plane in Perth.
The crew of one of two Chinese Air Force Ilyushin Il-76 aircraft used in the search for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 walk away from their plane in Perth.
Thirty-eight days after the plane went missing, an Australian navy ship is guided into position by a Royal New Zealand Airforce P-3K2 Orion aircraft. Officials say they will deploy an underwater robot to aid in the hunt.
Thirty-eight days after the plane went missing, an Australian navy ship is guided into position by a Royal New Zealand Airforce P-3K2 Orion aircraft. Officials say they will deploy an underwater robot to aid in the hunt.
Announcing that an underwater drone will be deployed imminently, Joint Agency Co-ordination Centre chief Angus Houston says an oil slick has been detected in the search area for the missing plane.
Announcing that an underwater drone will be deployed imminently, Joint Agency Co-ordination Centre chief Angus Houston says an oil slick has been detected in the search area for the missing plane.

An oil slick has been detected in the search area for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

Officials would deploy an underwater drone to conduct sonar searches for the missing plane, Joint Agency Co-ordination Centre chief Angus Houston said today.

Australian Defence Vessel Ocean Shield, which has previously detected potential black box pings, on Sunday collected an oil sample from the search zone that was being investigated for links to MH370.

Authorities planned to drop an autonomous underwater vehicle to the seafloor of the Indian Ocean and begin a visual search for flight MH370 wreckage, within hours.

Analysis of the four potential black box detections by ADV Ocean Shield in recent weeks has reduced the underwater search zone, Houston said at a press conference in Perth.

"The experts have therefore determined the ADV ocean shield will cease searching with the towed pinger locater later today and deploy the autonomous under water vehicle Bluefin-21," he said.

Travelling at a walking pace, each search mission would take the Bluefin-21 at least 24 hours.  It would cover an area of 40 square kilometres on its first day in operation.

It takes the vehicle two hours to reach the sea floor, it would then search for 16 hours, take another two hours to return to the surface and then four hours to download the data it has detected, Houston said.

"The Bluefin-21 in side scan sonar mode transits an active pulse which projects a high resolution 3 dimensional map of the sea floor," he said.

Houston described the seafloor search as a "further step towards visual confirmation" with possibility of detecting aircraft wreckage on ocean floor.

But it would be days before the origins of the oil can be investigated by experts on shore.

As many as 11 military aircraft, one civilian jet and 15 ships were searching an area about 47,644 square kilometres for the missing flight on Monday.

There have been no acoustic detections picked up in the underwater search area since Tuesday, JACC has confirmed.

The centre of the search zone is 2,200 kilometres north west of Perth, Western Australia, which has become the headquarters for the recovery operation.

Although the search is now in its fifth week, not a single piece of physical evidence has been located to confirm the whereabouts of MH370.

The Bluefin-21 Artemis autonomous underwater vehicle can operate at a depth of 4.5 kilometres and travels at a maximum speed of 4.5 knots, or less than 9 kilometres per hour.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott gave the last indication of the underwater search zone, of about 2000 square kilometres, when speaking to Chinese media on Saturday.

Under optimal conditions the submersible can complete a 25 hour mission if it maintains a speed of 3 knots, according to its manufacturer Bluefin Robotics.

It has been more than a week since the batteries from the flight's two black box beacons was due to expire; and six days since signals consistent with aircraft black box "pings" were last detected.

Abbott said the search was still focused on an area 40km - by - 50km in size.  He said search authorities had hoped to reduce the area to within 1km before deploying the Bluefin-21.

Houston stopped short of saying he believed the batteries were dead, but he has previously said the submersible would not be dropped to the ocean floor until there was absolutely no hope the black boxes would emit another signal.

Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, with 239 people on board including two New Zealanders, vanished after mysteriously changing course during a flight from Beijing to Kuala Lumpur on March 8.

It is hoped the plane's two black boxes: a flight data recorder, and a cockpit voice recorder will hold vital information about what happened in those final hours.

Earlier today Malaysian authorities revealed they were uncertain about what to do with the black boxes from Flight MH370 if they were located and brought to the surface.

The country's Attorney-General Abdul Ghani has flown to London to consult with the United Nations Civil Aviation Organisation and other experts about who should get custody of the boxes.

Although Malaysia is the head of the investigation under international law, the government has called on international experts from countries including the United States and Britain to assist with the investigation.

As the suspected final resting place of MH370 falls within Australia's search and rescue zone, Australia has been the lead agency for coordinating the Indian Ocean search effort.

-Fairfax Australia