The search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 has resumed in the southern Indian Ocean.
A ship equipped with specialized sonar technology has arrived in a remote stretch of ocean where the plane is believed to have ended its flight.
The Boeing 777, with 239 people on board, went missing after it veered radically off course on March 8.
Its whereabouts are still unknown despite a massive international air-and-sea search operation.
Australian officials believe the plane was flying on autopilot when it crashed.
Using satellite data, officials have concluded that the airliner ended its journey in the Indian Ocean, north-west of the Australian city of Perth.
The search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 has resumed in the southern Indian Ocean
On October 6, a vessel contracted by Malaysia, the GO Phoenix, began its work in the seas about 1,100 miles off western Australia.
It will tow underwater sensors over the sea floor scanning for traces of jet fuel and using sonar and video to try to locate the plane.
The Phoenix will be joined later this month by two ships sent by Dutch contractor Fugro. The operation could last at least a year.
The head of Australia’s transport safety agency, which is leading the underwater search, said he was “cautiously optimistic” the next phase – jointly funded by Malaysia and Australia – would eventually locate the plane.
“Cautious because of all the technical and other challenges we’ve got, but optimistic because we’re confident in the analysis,” Martin Dolan, chief commissioner of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
“But it’s just a very big area that we’re looking at.”
The previous search was suspended four months ago to allow for detailed mapping of a 44,000 sq mile area of sea bed.
That survey uncovered previously unknown extinct volcanoes and depressions up to 1,400m deep.
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The team searching for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 has released detailed images of the seabed.
The new images reveal features such as extinct volcanoes and 1,400-metre depressions for the first time.
The collection of data from one of the most secret parts of the world is a by-product of the search.
Until now there were better maps of Mars than of this bit of the sea floor.
The Malaysia Airlines plane vanished without trace on March 8, 2014, with 239 people on board.
Twenty-six countries have helped look for the Boeing 777, but nothing has ever been found.
The aircraft was flying from the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, to Beijing.
The new search images reveal features such as extinct volcanoes and 1,400-metre depressions for the first time
The team at the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), which is leading the hunt for the plane, is using sonar to map the new “priority” search area, at the bottom of the Southern Indian Ocean.
After that they will deploy two or three deep sea vehicles to begin the painstaking, inch-by-inch seabed search for wreckage.
The “priority” area is based on the only piece of hard evidence investigators have, which is a series of brief, electronic “hellos” between the Boeing and a satellite.
It is the equivalent of your mobile phone buzzing next to a loud speaker because it is checking in with a ground station, even when you are not making a call.
However, those “hellos” don’t give an exact location, just a very rough idea, so the smaller, “priority” area is still 23,200 square miles – an area roughly the size of Croatia.
Making sonar maps is vital to ensure the team does not crash its deep-water vehicles into ridges and volcanoes. The equipment is pulled along just above the sea floor by a 10km-long armored cable.
Snagging that cable could damage the kit, or even cut it free, so the maps help them avoid any obstructions.
The deep sea search vehicles have sonar that can pick out odd lumps, cameras that can double check if that lump is wreckage or just a rock and an electronic nose that can smell aviation fuel in the water, even if it is heavily diluted.
The operation to find flight MH370 is the most complex search in history.