The most difficult recovery effort in aviation history will continue off WA's south-west coast today after the discovery of debris thought to have come from missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.
Thirteen days after a Beijing-bound Boeing 777-200ER vanished with 239 passengers and crew aboard, Australian authorities spotted several big objects floating in the Indian Ocean more than 2500km south-west of Perth.
A rigorous, frame-by-frame analysis of the images, which are four days old, by experts at the Australian Geospatial- Intelligence Organisation found the objects could potentially be part of a debris field and passed the information to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.
Military aircraft from Australia, the US and New Zealand flew to the area yesterday in a bid to confirm the objects belonged to the missing aircraft.The debris is located in an area where the ocean is more than 3km deep and swells often reach 30m, making the recovery almost mission impossible.
It is likely that Royal Australian Navy Collins Class submarines based at HMAS Stirling at Garden Island will be involved in locating the wreckage.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott broke news of the potential breakthrough in Federal Parliament yesterday, shortly after informing Malaysian counterpart Najib Razak.
"Following specialist analysis of this satellite imagery, two possible objects related to the search have been identified," the Prime Minister said.
News of the discovery ricocheted around the world, with global media attention focusing on Perth.
Australia has five RAAF Orion aircraft and two C-130 Hercules combing a search corridor, aided by a US Navy P8 Poseidon surveillance aircraft and two Royal New Zealand Air Force Orions.
AMSA said a commercial vessel had been diverted to the area, as well as replenishment ship HMAS Success.
The Norwegian car carrier St Petersburg arrived in the search area last night.
Several satellites have been "re-tasked" to provide hi-resolution imagery of the search zone.
AMSA spokesman John Young said the objects were "probably awash with water bobbing up and down under the surface", with the biggest about 24m long.
It is likely to be part of a wing or horizontal stabiliser.
The second biggest object is believed to be about 10m wide.
US authorities had broadly sketched out two possible routes for the missing aircraft using satellite data - one taking the jet north-west across central Asia and the other to the southern Indian Ocean.
Australia was asked to take charge of operations in the southern search zone three days ago.
The RAAF C-130 yesterday dropped satellite-linked buoys to plot tidal drift.
"This lead is probably the best lead we have had so far," Mr Young said. "We have to get there, find (the pieces), see them, assess them."
At a hotel in Beijing family members of some passengers watched a live broadcast of the press conference.
Malaysia Airlines has said it will not be sending family members to Perth until it has positive identification the debris is from the missing aircraft.