The West

Finding just one bit is  vital clue
Big task: Able Seaman Boatswains Mate Rory Dow signals a sighting of a floating object while deployed on HMAS Success in the search for MH370. Picture: Defence

Searchers just need to find one fragment of debris from missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 and it will be the fingerprint to start unravelling the mystery that has gripped the world for 25 days.

According to one of the world's leading oceanographers, Charitha Pattiaratchi, professor of coastal oceanography at the University of WA, any piece of debris will enable his team to track it back to the impact point on March 8.

Yesterday, Professor Pattiaratchi released to _The West Australian _an animation that depicts the search area and five possible impact points for the purpose of demonstration.

The animation shows five areas of debris and how they would have floated away from the impact point over the past three weeks.

There are five big eddies in the search area.

This contrasts with the original search area where there is predominantly one strong west to east current.

Depending on which eddies the plane impacted on, some debris moves hundreds of kilometres while in other impact areas it remains broadly in the same location.

The UWA Ocean Institute tracks Indian Ocean currents daily and the data is stored for research.

However, according to Professor Pattiaratchi, although we know a lot about the surface of the ocean in the search area we know very little about the ocean floor.

"We know more about the surface of the moon than we know about this area of ocean," he said.

"It is possibly the least surveyed in the world."

Know as the Diamantina Fracture Zone, it was last surveyed in 1961 by HMAS Diamantina, which it was named after.

In the northern part of the search zone the sea floor is 2000m deep.

The area is divided by a feature called Broken Ridge which runs east-west and on the south side the sea floor drops off to a depth of 4000m.

Nine ships are now in the search zone and have been tasked to search in four separate areas.

A fourth Australian ship has left for a search area 1800km west of Perth to assist with surface sweep operations.

DMS Maritime vessel Seahorse Standard will join a flotilla of three other Australian vessels and more than six Chinese ships.

Malaysian frigate KD Lekiu will join the search area soon.

The Australian Defence Vessel Ocean Shield departed HMAS Stirling on Monday with a pinger locator and Bluefin-21 autonomous underwater vehicles which have side-scan sonar capability.

The Bluefin-21 found Air France 447.

'We know more about the surface of the moon than we know about this area of ocean.' "Oceanographer Professor Charitha Pattiaratchi

The West Australian

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