Picking Up A Tiny Sound In A Roaring Sea

The U.S. Navy is sending one of the world’s keenest listening tools to the southern Indian Ocean to ferret out the black boxes of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, believed to have sunk to the sea floor.

The Towed Pinger Locator 25, a device that resembles a robotic stingray, is an extremely sensitive underwater microphone, capable of picking up signals down to a depth of 20,000 feet. It’s towed by a slow-moving ship, trawling through the ocean bed with an ear for a particular frequency.

The hunt for the flight data recorders has gained urgency because they’ll shut down in a few short days. Till now, not a scrap of wreckage has been retrieved. All we have is a mathematical certainty that the plane went down where it did.

It was on the basis of satellite data alone that on March 23, a somber Malaysian prime minister, Najib Razak, announced to a roomful of anguished family members of the missing passengers that the flight had “ended in the southern Indian Ocean.”

An hour earlier, Malaysia Airlines had sent a text message, telling them that “we have to assume beyond any reasonable doubt that MH370 has been lost, and that none of those on board survived.”

Interestingly, neither said that the aircraft had “crashed.” One said, ended”; another, “lost.”

h/t: TIME

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