PETALING JAYA: Speculation is rife that the Seabed Constructor, the vessel enlisted in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, had its transponder turned off earlier this month as it was exploring sunken treasure during the expedition.
The UK’s Mail Online reported photos of an underwater “treasure chest” taken off the coast of Australia had sparked conspiracy theories as the Seabed Container “went dark” for three days.
It said the chest was found resting nearly 4km below the surface of the southern Indian Ocean in an area called Shipwreck #1.
It said the site was near Shipwreck #2, thought to be where a Peruvian ship named SV Inca vanished on the way to Sydney more than 100 years ago.
Both sites were within the 7th Arc where experts say MH370’s fuel reserves were likely to have been exhausted, the report said.
It quoted Paul Kennedy, CEO of Fugro, which specialises in subsea and geoscience services, as saying that the Dutch company had found the chest after placing an autonomous underwater vehicle in the area.
“We got even more excited because all of a sudden we could see things that didn’t look like natural sea floor features, they’ve got angles and hard edges on them all and we really got quite excited and thought ‘we’ve got something here’,” he was quoted as saying.
Incidentally, the sites are also close to two other sunken vessels, Shipwreck #3 and Shipwreck #4, respectively a fishing vessel complete with nets at a depth of 3.7km and a smaller wooden fishing boat that has been damaged in the bow.
On Jan 10 this year, Ocean Infinity, a US seabed exploration company, inked a deal with the Malaysian government to search for MH370 on a “no cure, no fee” basis.
The search involves the use of the Norwegian Seabed Constructor, equipped with advanced submersibles with sonar facility and cameras, covering an area of 25,000 sq km in the Indian Ocean within 90 days.
However, 10 days into its mission, the vessel switched off its automatic identification system without any explanation.
MH370, a Boeing 777-200ER, disappeared en route to Beijing from the Kuala Lumpur International Airport with 227 passengers and 12 crew members on board on March 8, 2014.
Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai had quashed rumours swirling after the ship searching for MH370 disappeared from tracking screens, saying it had simply made a refuelling stop in Australia and would resume the hunt.
“There is nothing to be worried about. We urge family members not to listen to rumours or fake news.”
He said the Seabed Constructor “is doing fine” and that “the search will continue as planned”.