In what has been described as the most credible leads in finding the whereabouts of the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, Australian officials have said that a ship searching for the plane has detected 'pings' or signals possibly emitted by the aircraft's Black Box.
The development comes after a Chinese ship searching for the missing plane also picked up a pulse signal on Friday, which was described as something that has a frequency of 37.5 kHz per second - the same as those emitted by the flight recorders.
On Monday, Australian officials said that two signals that were consistent with those emitted by Black Boxes had been detected by an Australian Ship off Australia's northwest coast.
"Two separate signal detections have occurred within the northern part of the defined search area. The first detection was held for approximately 2 hours and 20 minutes. The ship then lost contact before conducting a turn and attempting to re-acquire the signal," Angus Houston, head of the Australian agency coordinating the search, told a news conference in Pert in Western Australia.
"The second detection on the return leg was held for approximately 13 minutes. On this occasion, two distinct pinger returns were audible. Significantly, this would be consistent with transmissions from both the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder," he said adding: "Clearly, this is a most promising lead and probably in the search so far, it's probably the best information that we have had."
Houston, however, stressed that the information must be treated cautiously and responsibly until officials can provide an unequivocal determination.
"We haven't found the aircraft yet; we need the confirmation. And I really stress this; it's very important," he said.
The Australian ship Ocean Shield which detected the pings via its pinger locator was searching an area some 300 nautical miles away from where Chinese patrol ship Haixun 01 had reportedly detected another round of signals with the same frequency on Friday.
If the possible area for the search for MH370 black box could be narrowed down, an unmanned underwater vehicle called 'Bluefin 21,' will be sent to the sea floor to verify the signals, Houston said.
The area in which the signals have been received has a depth of approximately 4,500 meters (15,000 feet). This is also the limit of capability of the autonomous underwater vehicle, the official said.
"I need to be honest with you. It could take some days before the information is available to establish whether these detections can be confirmed as being from MH370.
"In very deep oceanic water, nothing happens fast. Of course, I will update you once we have an unequivocal determination," the official added.
Image credit: AMSA Press Release
(Edited by Anu James)