Barnacles may be able to help with the MH370 plane mystery

25 Aug 2023 08:30am
Picture for illustrative purposes - AFP
Picture for illustrative purposes - AFP

SHAH ALAM - On March 8th 2014, Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 took off from Kuala Lumpur, bound for Beijing.

Tragically, less than an hour into the flight, it lost contact over the South China Sea and subsequently disappeared without a trace.

Despite intensive efforts over a span of four years, utilizing a variety of search methods, the wreckage of the plane has remained elusive, leaving families and investigators with unanswered questions.

A four-year search for the flight included the use of submersible vehicles, drift modelling, and sonar imaging.

While the plane was never found, pieces of wreckage have been picked up across the Indian Ocean.

According to a report by Bloomberg, recent advancements in research have turned to the natural world for clues.

An examination of barnacles found on a wing part, discovered on Reunion Island, has provided a novel avenue of investigation.

By analyzing the barnacles' growth patterns, researchers have unveiled crucial insights into the sea surface temperatures, shedding light on the possible drift path the wreckage might have taken.

This study not only underscores the potential value of unconventional approaches but also demonstrates the significance of barnacle analysis in helping pinpoint potential crash locations, contributing to the ongoing search for answers.

“The flaperon was covered in barnacles and as soon as I saw that, I immediately began sending emails to the search investigators because I knew the geochemistry of their shells could provide clues to the crash location,” said Gregory Herbert, an associate professor at the University of South Florida, who co-authored the research.

“Sadly, the largest and oldest barnacles have not yet been made available for research, but with this study, we’ve proven this method can be applied to a barnacle that colonised on the debris shortly after the crash to reconstruct a complete drift path back to the crash origin.”

Government-led search efforts concluded in 2017, marking a turning point in the search saga.

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However, the quest to unveil the truth did not stop there.

In 2018, a private company named Ocean Infinity embarked on a search mission, but despite their efforts, no new leads emerged, and the search was suspended the same year.

As the passage of time hasn't diminished the importance of finding closure, Ocean Infinity has expressed its intention to resume the search in 2023 or 2024, pending approval from the Malaysian government.

This dedication highlights the determination to unravel the mystery surrounding the ill-fated MH370, bringing solace to the loved ones of those who were onboard.