Another Dead End, But Malaysia Airlines Searchers Not Giving Up

Meeting involves the deployment of specific military assets to the Indian Ocean.

March 31, 2014, 1:15 AM

March 31, 2014— -- The first objects fished out of the Indian Ocean that searchers hoped would give them a clue about the missing Malaysia Airlines jet turned out to be another dead end, but organizers of the international effort said they were "well, well short" of scaling back the hunt.

As the search for flight MH370 stretched into its fourth week, Malaysia's acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said he will travel to the United States to seek additional help. He will join a three-day Association of Southeast Asian Nations defense ministers meeting in Hawaii, which starts Tuesday. U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is convening the meeting.

"I shall be discussing with the United States, and our other friends and allies, how best we can acquire the assets needed for possible deep sea search and recovery,” he said.

The Ocean Shield, an Australian warship that is carrying a U.S. device that can detect “pings” from the black box flight recorders, is scheduled to leave Perth today for the search zone. More than three weeks have passed since the plane disappeared, leaving about a week of battery life for the black box “pingers,” which can be detected from a few miles away. The Ocean Shield is expected to arrive in the area on Thursday. The ship is also carrying an American submersible robot, the Bluefin.

Satellites and search planes from several nations have spotted debris in the southern Indian Ocean over the last couple weeks that organizers said were "credible" and possibly linked to the missing jetliner, but ships had been unable to locate them in the huge expanse of rough ocean. The first pieces were recovered by a ship on Friday, but today they were dismissed as discarded fishing gear and unrelated to the plane's disappearance.

Hishammuddin and Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott tried to assure the families of the 239 people who were aboard the missing jetliner that the searchers are not giving up.

"We will continue searching, and we will keep investigating, and we will never give up until we find out what happened to MH370," Abbott said. He called the effort to scour the Indian Ocean "an extraordinarily difficult exercise" that will go on as long as possible.

Despite determining that the junk pulled from the ocean was not linked to the missing plane, the prime minister said searchers are "well, well short" of any point where they would scale back the hunt.

Abbott said he was not putting a time limit on the search.

“We owe it to everyone to do whatever we reasonably can and we can keep searching for quite some time to come ... and, as I said, the intensity of our search and the magnitude of operations is increasing, not decreasing,” he said.

"If this mystery is solvable, we will solve it," Abbott said.

Authorities remain focused on finding wreckage from the missing plane, which disappeared March 8. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority said 10 aircraft and 10 ships are participating in today’s search, which involves an area about 1,150 miles west of Australia.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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