The New Seafloor Map That Could Help Find Flight MH370

Betsy Mason | Wired | May 27, 2014

The surface of Mars has been mapped in greater detail than most of Earth’s seafloor. Even though the Red Planet is around 140 million miles away on average (and never closer than 34 million miles), its surface is easier to map because there is no water obscuring it. The lack of good information about ocean floor topography has complicated the search for Malaysian Airlines flight MH370.

Now, two ocean floor mapping experts have gathered all the available data to make a new map of a 2,000 km by 1,400 km (1,240 mile by 870 mile) area in the Indian Ocean near where two boats may have detected pings from the plane’s black box. The map appears today in EOS Transactions, a news publication from the American Geophysical Union.

There are two depth survey tracks made by ships using echo sounders in the area, but these cover only around 5 percent of the search area. And they were done in the ’60s, before GPS navigation was available, so the ships navigated by dead reckoning, using very few set points. The measurements were recorded on paper scrolls, and digitizing this type of analog data is known to introduce errors of 100 meters or more...