MH370, don’t get your hopes up

22/03/2014

MH370 Satellite Image (Image source: AMSA)

While once again the media has whipped itself into a frenzy of anticipation over the objects sighted in the southern Indian ocean we should all be realistic about the likelihood of finding wreckage from MH370.

The problem is that the ocean is a vast trash heap filled with everything from the plastic shopping bags you get at the supermarket to ISO containers* floating just below the surface like steel icebergs. So it’s much more likely that an object in the ocean is something that’s fallen off a ship on the iron highway and drifted south, than a piece of aircraft wreckage. Could be aircraft wreckage, but probably not.

And this misunderstanding of the relative probabilities is why our esteemed Prime Minister jumped the gun in how he presented this sighting to the media, much better had he used that honoured police phrase, “we’re just eliminating this subject from our enquiries”.

*Standard sizes range from 8 to 56 feet (2.438 to 17.069 m) and heights from 8 feet (2.438 m) to 9 feet 6 inches (2.896 m).