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How deep could the missing plane be? Pings provide MH370 clues

April 9, 2014 at 3:20 PM ET

Video: Two more signals were detected overnight in the search for Flight 370, and an official says he’s “optimistic” the plane will be found. But officials say those sounds are getting weaker. NBC’s Tom Costello reports.

Two signals that could possibly be from the black box of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 may have search leaders mapping out an area as deep as 12 Empire State buildings below the surface of the Indian Ocean in an attempt to find the wreckage of the missing plane.

The Australian ship "Ocean Shield" picked up a pair of signals on Tuesday, one lasting 5 1/2 minutes and other lasting 7 minutes. Pinpointing the signals could allow the search team to significantly narrow the area it needs to scour to potentially find the remains of the aircraft, which disappeared on March 8 with 239 people on board. 

Missing plane MH370 may have provided some clues to its depth.
NBC News animation

"It's consistent with a locator on a black box, so that's why we are more confident than we were before, but we've got to lay eyes on it," search coordinator Angus Houston, a retired Air Chief Marshal, told reporters at a briefing in Perth on Wednesday. 

The search team is hoping to detect more signals so that it can send an unmanned submarine to map the ocean floor and look for the wreckage. The signals are coming from one of the most remote areas of the Indian Ocean, and the targeted search area could potentially be 15,000 feet below the surface.

The Titanic was found at a depth of 12,500 feet, and Air France 447, which went down in 2009, was found at 13,000 feet, both in the Atlantic Ocean. For comparison sake, the Empire State Building is 1,250 feet high. 

The Australian ship "Ocean Shield" has received signals from a location that could be 1-3 miles deep in the Indian Ocean and potentially could be from the black box of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370.
NBC News
The Australian ship "Ocean Shield" has received signals from a location that could be 1-3 miles deep in the Indian Ocean and potentially could be from the black box of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370.
The search team could potentially have to map and scour an area 15,000 feet below the surface, the equivalent of 12 times the distance to the top of the Empire State Building from its base.
NBC News
The search team could potentially have to map and scour an area 15,000 feet below the surface, the equivalent of 12 times the distance to the top of the Empire State Building from its base.
For comparison's sake, the team searching for the wreckage would be going more than five times deeper than a sperm whale can dive.
NBC News
For comparison's sake, the team searching for the wreckage would be going more than five times deeper than a sperm whale can dive.
In 1985, the famous Titanic was found 12,500 feet below the surface in the Atlantic Ocean after colliding with an iceberg and sinking in 1912. This current search could go another 2,500 feet deeper below the surface.
NBC News
In 1985, the famous Titanic was found 12,500 feet below the surface in the Atlantic Ocean after colliding with an iceberg and sinking in 1912. This current search could go another 2,500 feet deeper below the surface.
The wreckage of Air France Flight 447, which went down in 2009 and killed 228 passengers as well as the crew, was found 13,000 feet below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean.
NBC News
The wreckage of Air France Flight 447, which went down in 2009 and killed 228 passengers as well as the crew, was found 13,000 feet below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean.
The signals picked up by an Australian ship on Tuesday most likely came from a man-made device that could be a black box, officials said. The signal could be coming from as deep as 15,000 feet in an area of the Indian Ocean so remote that it has not been mapped.
NBC News
The signals picked up by an Australian ship on Tuesday most likely came from a man-made device that could be a black box, officials said. The signal could be coming from as deep as 15,000 feet in an area of the Indian Ocean so remote that it has not been mapped.

The signal received on Tuesday was weaker than usual, which could suggest that the battery is running down on the black box as the search for the missing plane entered its 33rd day on Wednesday. The potential search area is so remote and dark that it has never been thoroughly charted, which means it could take one to three weeks just to map and photograph the ocean floor in an attempt to find the wreckage. 

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