A Robotic submarine looking for the lost Malaysian jet began its second mission Tuesday after cutting short its first because the ocean waters where it was sent were too deep, officials said.
Monday’s planned 16-hour search lasted just six and none of the data collected by the US Navy’s Bluefin 21 submarine offered clues to the whereabouts of the plane.
The unmanned sub is programmed to hover 30 meters above the seabed, but it started searching atop a patch that was deeper than the sub’s maximum operating depth of 4,500 meters, the search coordination center and the US Navy said.
A built-in safety feature returned the Bluefin to the surface and it was not damaged, they said.
The data collected by the sub was later analyzed and no sign of the missing plane was found, the US Navy said.
Crews shifted the search zone away from the deepest water before sending the Bluefin back for Tuesday’s mission, the US Navy said.
Search authorities had known the primary search area for Flight 370 was near the limit of Bluefin’s dive capabilities. Deeper-diving submersibles have been evaluated, but none is yet available to help.
A safety margin would have been included in the Bluefin’s program to protect the device from harm if it went a bit deeper than its 4,500-meter limit, said Stefan Williams, a professor of marine robotics at the University of Sydney.
“Maybe some areas where they are doing the survey are a little bit deeper than they are expecting,” he said. “They may not have very reliable prior data for the area.”
Meanwhile, officials were investigating an oil slick about 5,500 metersfrom the area where the last underwater sounds were detected.
Crews collected an oil sample and sent it back to Perth in western Australia for analysis, a process that will take several days, said Angus Houston, the head of the joint agency coordinating the search off Australia’s west coast.
He said it does not appear to be from any of the ships in the area, but cautioned against jumping to conclusions about its source.
The submarine is programmed to take 24 hours to complete each mission: two hours to dive to the bottom, 16 hours to search the seafloor, two hours to return to the surface, and four hours to upload the data.
On Tuesday, Malaysia’s defense minister, Hishamuddin Hussein, pledged to reveal the full contents of the black boxes if they are found.
“It’s about finding out the truth,” he told reporters in Kuala Lumpur. “There is no question of it not being released.