Thursday, 12 May 2016

Is the search for MH370 in the wrong location? 
It is more than two years since MH 370 disappeared in the most mysterious aviation disappearance to date in aviation history. 239 innocent lives were lost. Many conspiracy theories have floated since then torturing the families and next of kin of those of who disappeared. 

Questions remain unanswered.
  •      Could the GPS have gone wrong?
  •          Could the CIA have bumped off the plane as it was reported that a Chinese Spy was on board?
  •      Could the plane have developed a technical snag and started burning up considering it was carrying hazardous material in its belly?
  •         Could it have been terrorism / hijack?
  •          Could it have been pilot suicide?

Australia, Malaysia USA, and China have mounted an infinitely desperate search in the middle of the third biggest ocean to search for answers or trace of the aircraft. MH 370’s debris are gradually washing up on the Islands off the south-eastern coast of Africa like in Reunion Island, Rodrigues Island (of Mauritius,) as well as on the coast of Mozambique and South Africa. ( It is terribly disheartening, demotivating and cruel to the families and next of kin of those who perished on the plane   that the search will soon be given up. Wouldn’t they be cheated by fate?

On 8th March 2014, - it was a Saturday – I was in a place called Campbell Bay in Great Nicobar Island of Andaman Nicobar Islands in Bay of Bengal. I was there to complete my field research for my book “Preparing for the Day After”. I was seated on the steps in the patio of the APWD Inspection Bungalow when my mother called from Bangalore and told me about the tragic breaking news. Without asking her any further questions, I told Mamma immediately that the plane has gone through the straits of separating Nicobar Islands from Sumatra, it has gone past Sri Lanka heading straight to Diego Garcia … which is part of British Indian Ocean Territory. I told Mom that the pilot has gone there to claim asylum. “Malaysia” – Mamma – “was a former colony of the UK and as a pilot he will very well know the rules of asylum law and it is easy for him to throw his passport somewhere over the ocean and land in Diego Garcia and claim UK citizenship” I told her. Mom asked me to keep my voice low and to be discrete in politically sensitive areas just so that I do not get into trouble.

I honestly do not know what made me conclude so intuitively, so firmly. But what I had said about the plane travelling between Banda Aceh and Indira Point in Great Nicobar Island turned out to be true. 

I just am a very keen student of Geography and Geology with passionate interest in environmental communications. None of the passengers on the plane were even acquainted to me although I eventually heard that among the five Indians on board was one renowned fisheries activist, whose name I had heard as a potential interviewee for my book. But it troubled me enough to mentally pour over possible reasons for the plane’s disappearance.

I came back to Bangalore on 25th March 2014 and by then I think the Malaysian Government had announced that the plane had disappeared over the south-eastern Indian Ocean. Further by 8th April based on beacon messages from the Black Box the Inmarsat readings concluded that the plane was lost somewhere in a curving path over north-western or southwestern Australia. That is when I looked hard at Google Earth and realised that the flight path from the Straits of Malacca to Diego Garcia cannot possibly veer off to the left towards the north-western or southwestern shores of Australia, it should much rather go through 2°33'49.20"S  80° 8'54.58"E; 7°19'47.66"S  86°13'33.64"E; 1°51'47.31"N  76°15'5.64"E; 2°13'26.22"N  87°10'56.80"E; 6° 6'16.27"S  75° 1'29.11"E enroute to Diego Garcia. The region where Australian Transportation Safety Board has been searching  based on Inmarsat readings is nearer to `18033’37.09”S – 103055’52.79 E

It is – logical then that the plane ran out of fuel and crashed somewhere east of Maldives directly east of Male instead of west of Perth / NW of Australia; Another possibility that occurred to me was that the GPS reading pointed 380 S instead of 380 N where Beijing is located. But people say GPS cannot go wrong, they sound as if the machine is so perfectly fool proof…

Given that the Australian Transportation Safety Board has been making all out efforts to trace the plane under the ocean … I pray that they search the coordinates (2°33'49.20"S  80° 8'54.58"E; 7°19'47.66"S  86°13'33.64"E; 1°51'47.31"N  76°15'5.64"E; 2°13'26.22"N  87°10'56.80"E; 6° 6'16.27"S  75° 1'29.11"E) on the sea floor before giving up the search for MH 370 in mid 2016.  

 Malini Shankar

Malini Shankar is a freelance photojournalist radio broadcaster, blogger, author and documentary filmmaker based in Bangalore, India. 

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