The fate of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 remains one of the most high-profile unsolved mysteries of our time. 239 people were aboard the Boeing 777 when it disappeared on March 8, 2014, and the nearly five-year search for the plane and its occupants has turned up very little aside from a few small pieces of debris. What happened to MH370?
Unfortunately, we may never know. As much as GPS systems and air traffic control has advanced in recent decades, the Earth is still a pretty big place and there remain areas where even a 209-foot aircraft can hide from the best experts and technology and we possess. Naturally, with nothing to go on, all sorts of dubious claims and conspiracy theories surrounding the missing aircraft have surfaced. Whether or not any of those contain any kernels of truth remains unknown.
The latest new piece of the MH370 puzzle didn’t come from a British tabloid or dubious YouTube channel, but was published this week in the open-access journal Scientific Reports under the unassuming title “Effect of sea-bottom elasticity on the propagation of acoustic–gravity waves from impacting objects.” In the study, the University of Cardiff’s Usama Kadri writes that underwater microphones deep in the Indian Ocean may have recorded the sound of MH370 crashing into the water. These hydrophones are scattered throughout the northern Indian Ocean and were installed as part of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty to listen for very low-frequency acoustic waves caused by underwater nuclear tests. While listening for these explosions, the microphones picked up four separate anomalous low-frequency noises that coincide with the time MH370 vanished from radar.
Unfortunately, there is no way of determining the exact location from which these noises originated, and there is always the possibility that they have a natural origin such as an earthquake or volcanic eruption. That idea seems more probable given the recent anomalous low-frequency seismic waves detected in the Indian Ocean. Still, Kadri and colleagues conducted several tests which showed that large, heavy objects striking the surface of water can indeed cause these low-frequency acoustic-gravity waves.
The researchers are now conducting further tests to determine if there may be hidden information in the ambient noise on the hydrophone recordings which may shed light on the disappearance of MH370. Will we ever find the ill-fated plane? Could clues be hidden in plain sight in data such as these hydrophone recordings? For now, the location of MH370 remains an unsolved mystery.