(WSJ) After a monthslong pause while a remote stretch of the southern Indian Ocean’s floor was mapped, crews are preparing to resume the deep sea search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.
The ship GO Phoenix, which left Jakarta in late September, is due to arrive in the search area—about 1,800 miles west of Australia—late Sunday. It will begin sweeping the area Monday with a sonar device known as a towfish, which is dragged through the sea, said Martin Dolan, chief commissioner of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, the agency leading the multinational hunt.
Another ship, module article chiclet Fugro Discovery, docked in Western Australia’s Port of Fremantle Sunday to be fitted with equipment including a towfish, Mr. Dolan told The Wall Street Journal. After several days to fit and test the equipment, the ship is due to set sail and should arrive in the search zone about Oct. 17.
The third vessel that will take part in the search, Fugro Equator, is completing the bathymetric survey of a long but narrow arc of seafloor where the search has been concentrated. It is due to finish mapping by the end of the month, after which it is scheduled to journey to Fremantle, where it too will be fitted with similar search equipment, Mr. Dolan said.
Searchers are hoping to answer what has become one of the greatest mysteries in aviation history.
Flight 370 disappeared en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing March 8 with 239 passengers on board. Based on radar data and satellite transmissions left behind as the plane diverted off course, investigators have prioritized an area in the Indian Ocean—where they think the plane crashed after it ran out of fuel—about the size of the Australian island state of Tasmania.
Military search crews spent about 100 days scanning the ocean surface for debris after the Boeing 777 went missing, but turned up nothing linked to the aircraft. An initial underwater search also failed to find any trace of Flight 370.
Australia in early August selected Dutch oil-and-gas consulting firm Fugro NV to lead a rebooted search for the Malaysian jetliner after a monthlong tender process. The ship GO Phoenix was sent by Malaysia’s government to assist Fugro’s vessels.
The area where the plane is thought to have crashed was largely unknown to scientists before ships began mapping the seabed, which at points is about 6,000 meters (19,700 feet) below the surface
The three search ships will tow the delicate equipment about 100 meters above the seabed through areas now known to have deep crevasses, undersea mountains and volcanoes, Mr. Dolan said.
The towfish are fitted with side-scan sonar and can carry video equipment to help crews aboard the ships spot any debris for Flight 370. The device that will be carried aboard Fugro Discovery also will have a sensor that, when turned on, can detect traces of jet fuel, Mr. Dolan said.