The batteries in Flight MH370’s black box and cockpit voice recorder that power their locator beacons are at the end of their of their lives. How much longer they work beyond their allotted 30 days is now a matter of unpredictable chance. This coincides with the most optimistic reports yet heard from the search area—the man in charge of the search, retired Australian air force chief Angus Houston, allowed himself to say, “I’m much more optimistic than I was a week ago.”

That is striking because it would be wise to use an abundance of caution, given how massive the search zone remains and how high the odds against a rapid success. 

Air commodore Houston was responding to results from the Australian ship Ocean Shield. A special ping detector towed by the vessel had caught and held signals using the same wavelength as a flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder. On one run, the signals were held for two hours and 20 minutes, on a second for 13 minutes.

The key thing is to be able to compute the exact origin of these signals: position and depth. This is what the technicians are desperately trying to achieve.

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