Now that the ‘shocking’ new evidence in the Sky News documentary MH370: The Untold Story has been revealed, I write to report a disappearance. Of the various theories and leads that have been advanced since the tragedy on 8 March 2014, there is one that has gone missing, never sighted by any investigating team including, now, Sky News. I refer to an early lead offered by an Australian scientific exploration company which was presented in good faith but which, irrespective of its merits, fell prey to cancel culture.
In the days following the tragedy the Adelaide-based company, GeoResonance, thought it might be able to help. Using what it describes in its publicly-accessible statements as geophysical technology to identify subsurface substances by detecting their electromagnetic fields, the company’s Europe-based employees undertook their own searching, concentrating on areas where the plane was likely to have flown if it had not turned south, which it was afterwards said to have done, and searching specifically for elements that make up a Boeing 777: aluminium, titanium, copper, steel alloys and jet fuel residue. They found a mass of these materials together in one location 190 km south of Bangladesh in the Bay of Bengal, between 1,000 and 1,100 metres beneath the surface. By examining their ‘aerial multispectral imagery’ of the same area from 5 March, they were also able to establish that these materials had arrived at this location sometime between 5 and 10 March 2014.
The company’s Adelaide office immediately sent this information to Malaysian Airlines, the Malaysian and Chinese embassies in Canberra and the Australian-based Joint Agency Co-ordination Centre (JACC). They were careful not to say that they had found MH370, only that they had found what they believed to be the wreckage of a passenger plane and that they were submitting this information as a lead. Then, receiving no reply from anyone, they considered it their duty to enlist the help of the media and through the agency of Adelaide’s Channel 7 their information became world news, at least for a day.
They were instantly discredited as not having the abilities they professed and were denounced as commercial charlatans trying to benefit from the disaster. ‘My blood is boiling,’ said CNN’s aviation expert, whilst the company was trolled as unscrupulous gold-diggers.
But what shocked the company most, they said afterwards, was the ABC’s Media Watch.
With no enquiries made or research of their own undertaken, Media Watch ridiculed them, sealing their fate with trademark Paul Barry sanctimony. ‘Shame on you, Mr Barry,’ they said in their incensed response. But the leaders of the Australian search effort fell into line. The company’s offers of a briefing to demonstrate their technologies and prove their bona fides were repeatedly ignored.
As the search in the southern Indian Ocean progressed, GeoResonance hoped for its success. As stressed in their statements, their motivation had always been to help the families of the victims, not to vindicate themselves, but they were nonetheless riled by the refusal of the authorities to listen to them. With support from others in the scientific community they claimed that the Inmarsat ‘handshake’ data, which was used for the determination of the search area in the southern Indian ocean, was incomplete and unreliable, and they criticised the leaders of the search, Angus Houston of JACC, who was later knighted, and Martin Dolan of the Australian Transport and Safety Bureau, for the myopia of their single-theory search strategy.
‘The directors and staff of GeoResonance maintain their rage at the Malaysian and Australian authorities for not checking the exact co-ordinates in the Bay of Bengal,’ they said on the second anniversary.
But they may as well never have spoken. Their lead had vanished. It can be searched online for proof that it did exist at one time but it has otherwise been wiped from the record. Numerous books have been written which claim to explore all scenarios but whilst possibilities such as the pilot having parachuted to meet a lover in a boat, or the plane having been seized by aliens, are even-handedly addressed, I could find no mention of the lead that came out of Adelaide. Even the highly-regarded programme Air Crash Investigation produced a special episode on MH370 with no reference to it and now Sky News’s MH370: The Untold Story has followed suit. All of these writers and investigators show blind faith in the Inmarsat ‘handshakes’, thereby confining themselves to the southern Indian ocean, but with GeoResonance questioning those ‘handshakes’ and the plane still undiscovered, maybe theirs is the untold story that matters.
To be clear, I am not arguing the merits of the GeoResonance lead in itself. I have no qualifications for that. I am arguing that those merits were never assessed in the first place and that this was due to nothing other than a superficial distrust of the private sector. On the day the search formally ended, 17 January 2017, GeoResonance issued another press release. This is the last statement they have made on the subject but in January 2020 the company confirmed on email that nothing has since happened to alter its position. ‘It is no surprise to the scientific community that the search was a failure,’ the statement says in part. ‘This failure is an ultimate testament to a string of politically-motivated decisions and the arrogant exclusion of different opinions.’
Whatever political forces have been at play in this tragedy, one that compromised the search effort from the outset was the politics of virtue. GeoResonance’s sin was that in its day-to-day operations it is a commercial, profit-seeking entity.
Could it be that the search for the missing plane has come to a point where success does not require technological know-how so much as an open mind, one that is free of arbitrary prejudice and willing to consider the scientific claims that the ‘handshakes’ data is fallible?
The answer to that would depend on the outcome of a search of those exact co-ordinates in the Bay of Bengal, which has still not been done.
Craig Pett’s blog is at www.pettblog.com
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