MH370 search uncovers two 19th Century shipwrecks

Two merchant vessels that sank in the 19th Century were found in the Indian Ocean during a search for a failed search for the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370

A sonar image of one of the shipwrecks found in 2015
A sonar image of one of the shipwrecks found in 2015

Two shipwrecks were found during the failed search for the Malaysia Airlines flight 370. The two ships were merchant vessels that sank in the 19th Century, according to researchers. 

Maritime historians on Thursday published a short list of possible identities of two shipwrecks found in the course of the initial 710,000 sq km (274,000 sq mile), three-year search for the Boeing 777 that was lost in 2014 with 238 people aboard.

The ships, discovered 2,300km (1,400 miles) off Western Australia, have been narrowed down by experts to a handful of coal-carrying British vessels.

Searchers stumbled on the wrecks during a trawl of the Indian Ocean in 2015.

Australian maritime researchers used sonar pictures and shipping records in their efforts to identify the vessels.

Dr Ross Anderson, curator of maritime archaeology from the Western Australian Museum, said it was likely to be one of three vessels: the West Ridge (lost in 1883), Kooringa (1894) or Lake Ontario (1897).

The museum’s examination of the images of the scattered remnants of a ship discovered on 19 May 2015, found it was possibly the brig W Gordon or the barque Magdala, according to incomplete records of ships lost in that period.

W Gordon was on a voyage from Scotland to Australia when it disappeared in 1877 with 10 crew aboard. Magdala was lost in 1882 while sailing from Wales to Indonesia.

The other vessel, found about 36km away in May 2015, had a wooden hull.

There was no evidence of what caused the disaster, but the wreck’s location east of the trade route from Europe to Asia suggested it might have been heading to the closest port in Australia for help.

“These are the deepest wrecks so far located in the Indian Ocean, they’re some of the most remote shipwrecks in the world,” he said.

The location of MH370 remains unknown more than four years after it disappeared, carrying 239 people, en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

One of the ships, spotted in December 2015, was identified as an iron barque.

A private US firm began another search for the plane earlier this year. Now in its final weeks, it has not turned up any clues.

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