March 28, 2014— -- The search for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane was shifted 700 miles to the northeast today and, almost immediately, five of the search planes spotted and photographed objects floating in the water.
What the planes spotted was described by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, which is coordinating the international dragnet, as “multiple objects of various colors.”
"Photographic imagery of the objects was captured and will be assessed overnight. The objects cannot be verified or discounted as being from MH370 until they are relocated and recovered by ships," AMSA said in a statement.
A Chinese ship assisting with the search for flight MH370 was directed to the area in the hopes that it can locate and recover the objects on Saturday.
While search planes and satellites have been spotting possible debris for the past week, ships in the area have yet to find them in the vast expanse of rough seas in the southern portion of Indian Ocean to determine if they are from the missing jetliner that vanished March 8.
The discoveries came hours after officials said they had shifted the search area yet again after a “new credible lead.” New information from Malaysian officials led to the change, Australian officials said. The new search area is about 1,150 miles west of Perth.
Ten planes were diverted to the new site and five of the planes reported spotting objects, officials said.
The shift marked another setback in the three-week search, which was bolstered in previous days by satellite images showing possible debris.
Further analysis of radar data indicated the plane was traveling faster than previously estimated, resulting in it burning more fuel and shortening the distance it could have traveled south into the Indian Ocean, officials said.
AMSA General Director John Young defended previous search efforts in the southern Indian Ocean.
“This actually happens to us all the time,” he said of the re-focused search. “New information will emerge out of sequence with the investigation itself.”
Three weeks of weather and currents have added difficulty to the search, Young said.
“There will be a significant amount of random dispersion of objects, so the search area steadily gets bigger with time,” Young said.
At Malaysia’s daily press briefing, Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said the search was altered after Inmarsat, a British satellite firm, refined data from one of its satellites and pieced together radar information and aircraft performance assumptions.
“Because of ocean drift, this new search area could still be consistent with the potential objects identified by various satellite images over the past week,” Hishammuddin said, reading from a prepared statement. “With each step, we get closer to understanding MH370’s flight path.”
The jetliner was carrying 239 people when it disappeared.