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Barnacles hold the key to what happened to missing MH370 jet, experts claim

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    The mysterious disappearance of MH370 almost a decade ago could be solved by barnacles as scientists begin tracing ocean temperatures.

    Malaysian Airways flight MH370 disappeared on March 8, 2014, and extensive searches for the missing jet proved unfruitful, with just a few bits of debris found so far.

    But fresh hope was kindled by scientists focusing on barnacle shells which could lead to discovering the crash site, charting the temperatures and reconstructing the drift path.

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    Doing so comes after a six-month private search in 2018 which failed to reveal further traces of the flight, as parts of the wreckage washed up onto an Indian Ocean island.

    No other signs were found but University of South Florida researchers are hopeful their new plan of tracking barnacles could prove fruitful.

    Only partially reconstructed drift paths were created from the shells, but the results indicate it could be applied fully and used to find the plane.

    Associate Professor Gregory Herbert, who says he got the idea from looking at plane debris washing ashore on Reunion Island, is hopeful of the geochemistry involved in their new search.

    He said: "The flaperon was covered in barnacles and as soon as I saw that, I immediately began sending emails to the search investigators because I knew the geochemistry of their shells could provide clues to the crash location."

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    It may still take time for Professor Herbert and his research to come good as they await the "largest and oldest" barnacles, but proving the method could be a breakthrough.

    Professor Herbert said their work had "proven this method can be applied to a barnacle that colonised on the debris shortly after the crash to reconstruct a complete drift path back to the crash origin."

    Doing so means investigators could narrow down the 120,000km they searched of the "Seventh Arc" corridor, where the plane is believed to have glided as it ran out of fuel.

    The professor added: "Even if the plane is not on the arc, studying the oldest and largest barnacles can still narrow down the areas to search in the Indian Ocean."

    Fellow researchers working with Professor Herbert agree the publication of the data could prove immensely important in the search for the missing aircraft.

    Dr Nassar Al-Qattan said: "Knowing the tragic story behind the mystery motivated everyone involved in this project to get the data and have this work published.

    "The plane disappeared more than nine years ago, and we all worked aiming to introduce a new approach to help resume the search, suspended in January 2017, which might help bring some closure to the tens of families of those on the missing plane."

    Because of rapidly changing ocean temperatures, Professor Herbert believes his method could reveal the precise location of the plane.

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    • mh370
    • Plane Crash
    • Science

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