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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Malaysian Search

6°N; 104°E

Notice that these coordinates are in full degrees, without the precision of minutes and seconds we normally post for our school visits. In this case, the coordinates represent the last known location of MH370, the Malaysian Airlines flight that has been missing since Saturday, March 8.

Image: BBC -- Click to Enlarge
Most of Malaysia is found at the southern end of the long, narrow Malay Peninsula (the rest is on the neighboring island of Borneo). For this reason -- and because the plane had plenty of fuel when it disappeared, the search now includes vast areas of water both east and west of the country.

From a geographer in Brazil we learned that people all over the world are assisting in the search. In addition to planes and ships from several neighboring countries, people with computers all over the world are participating in the crowdsourced search for Flight MH370, by visually scanning some of the thousands of recent satellite images. The shear size of the area that needs to be examined means that volunteers from throughout the world may find something before it is found by searchers in the region.
Geography is essential for Search & Rescue professionals.
Image: BBC 
BBC coverage includes initial reports and latest news. Its reporting also explains the difficulties of searching in different areas of the ocean. Deep water is difficult for obvious reasons, but shallow water is also difficult because it may have more background noise from boats. As the story of this tragedy continues to unfold, it may be useful to browse the area using this map:

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