MH370: Following Too Close

After learning that ACARS was apparently intentionally disabled shortly after takeoff on March 8, 2014, Inmarsat technicians panicked. They could think of no way to track MH370 without its compass headings and ground speed. And they spent the next three months looking for alternative ways of estimating those missing metrics before landing on their next best guess in September 2014: something they dubbed “BFO”. It never, ever worked, but it drew a crowd.

Inmarsat techs were not alone in lamenting the loss of heading and ground speed. Dozens of other digital communication specialists in France, Australia, UK, and elsewhere commiserated with Inmarsat. Many tried to help.

But Germany’s Geomar took a different approach. It initially tried a “particle-generated” drift model to simulate ocean currents. The results were quite good, but not perfect. Then a Geomar tech named Durgadoo, who had had sporadic communication with an American named Chillit, noticed that Chillit’s “radius of the final ping” appeared to have possibilities. Everyone knows Germany has lots of great mathematicians and geometers; especially those who also happen to drive a Porsche or Mercedes or have perhaps heard of a fellow named Einstein. Whether or not Mr. Durgadoo did the rest of the work himself or had help, we know how it ended. Geomar used the Radius technique to became the first entity to visually check Zenith Abyss. Surprise! It worked well, thanks! Still waiting for my check.

Search watchers will recall that it was then in early 2017 that Australia and Malaysia stopped searching for the plane. Oh, what a coincidence! Geomar wasted no time sharing its discovery with those two nations. Inmarsat also quit, although it had not been much help in the effort after introducing the seriously flawed “BFO” metric. There was a lot of silence for the next four years, with but an occasional Cambodian Jungle or “Shot Down” claim. And no shortage of screwy southern ocean predictions. Australia’s Greg Hood threatened his staff with criminal prosecution if they revealed that Australia, Malaysia, and Geomar knew the plane’s location.

Things began to change in 2019 when Geomar’s sonar returns from Zenith were incorporated into a Google Earth Plugin known as SRTM15_V2+. There, in plain sight for anyone using the final ping ring technique, was a large portion of highly reflective MH370 debris… if you looked where the final ping ring model predicted it should be. And that was probably the only way anyone would notice it on Google Earth where Geomar’s Multibeam Sonar rendition exaggerated that portion of the seafloor. That was almost certainly Geomar’s intention for internal review purposes. But it failed to get Scripps to delete that portion of the sonar record. In fact, Scripps was just following funding guideline requirements when it published the whole Tamale.

Diego Garcia and Christmas Island enthusiasts faded away after that, but a number of other volunteers continued plugging along with Inmarsat’s BFO. No one told them the mystery had been solved and that they could go home. Why not?

There is a bad smell all over this search. A lot of people from all walks of life worked hard on it. The plane was found visually in June 2017. Australia and Malaysia were in the loop. Nowhere in the UN’s ICAO protocols is there a provision that hiding evidence from the general public is an OK thing to do. Someone tell Australia and its Minderoo.

Inmarsat’s Group Outcome

Actual Endpoint