HMS Echo Keeps Up Efforts to Find Lost Malaysian Plane
Sailors on board Royal Navy ship HMS Echo are continuing their efforts to narrow down the area in the Indian Ocean where ‘pings’, thought to be from missing flight MH370’s black box, have been detected.
The commanding officer of the hydrographic survey ship said they were using their specialist equipment to measure how the signal is travelling through the water in a bid to pinpoint the flight recorder.
Commander Philip Newell said: “The key challenge is to try and refine all of the observations that are being made by the Australian ship Ocean Shield. They are doing that at the moment but it’s challenging due to some difficult weather conditions.
“At this stage we are trying to narrow down this position so that when they put a submersible into the water they will be able to identify correctly what exactly is on the seabed.”
HMS Echo, which was diverted from her data gathering operation between Oman and the Seychelles to aid the Australian-led mission to find the flight recorder and flight MH370, are using their expertise to carry out oceanographic and meteorological observations.
A conductivity, temperature and depth (CTD) probe has been launched thousands of metres into the ocean to measure those variables that will affect how the pings will travel through water.
An Expendable Bathythermograph will further check the accuracy of temperature and depth recordings, while Echo’s HiPAP (High Precision Acoustic Positioning) sonar is being used outside its normal operating parameters to listen for the aircraft transponder.
It can detect a ‘ping’ at range of 4,000 metres and can determine range and bearing to more accurately pinpoint the position. The HiPAP is used in industry for the positioning of drill heads and has proven accuracy.
The ship is designed for long stays at sea, and could potentially continue its search for up to 60 days.
Cdr Newell said: “In anything like this I am very conscious, I have 20 years experience of trying to find things on the seabed, it is pretty much my day job.
“I have a brilliant team, young, bright and enthusiastic and we are working 24/7 to cover the sea bed and observe on the surface.
“There’s a sense that we are playing an important part in this role and we are keen to get it right. And in terms of purpose, it is key to make sure that we detect anything that can help in the investigation.”
HMS Echo, which is normally based in Devonport, is also joined by Royal Navy submarine HMS Tireless.
Apart from a 12-hour stop in the Maldives to take on supplies and change some of her crew, the survey ship has now been at sea continuously for six weeks.
As for Tireless, the Trafalgar-class submarine has been away from Plymouth for three months.
These deployments continue the Royal Navy’s commitment to the Asia Pacific region – and to international humanitarian missions in it: HMS Daring visited Australia last year as part of her global deployment and both Daring and HMS Illustrious played a vital role in providing aid in the Philippines following the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan.
Press Release, April 14, 2014; Image: Royal Navy