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CNN SPECIAL REPORTS
Updates In Search For Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
Aired April 7, 2014 - 00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: One day they're being told that everything is lost and the plane is in the ocean. But still, no evidence, no sign of their loved ones. And they really want to come -- they really want to get some answers here. And we can understand why.
Hello, everyone. I'm Don Lemon. I want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.
In just minutes, the head of the joint task force heading up the search for Malaysia airlines flight 370 is about to speak. This briefing was announced just a short time ago. And all me we know is it is a, quote, "update" and read into that what you will. An update. But we will bring you that live, just as soon as he steps out, as soon as Angus Houston walks out, we will bring that to you live.
And here is what we do know, though. For the first time, we have what could be sound from the plane's black box. Search crews are scouring the Indian Ocean, trying to find out if there is anything to those pings heard this weekend by a Chinese ship. A specially equipped British ship has now arrived at the spot where the two pulse signals were picked up. And on board the HMS Echo, high-tech detect has occurred. Just northeast of there, the Australian ship Ocean Shield is continuing its investigations, trying to figure out the source of a curious, quote, "acoustic event."
And today another question is emerging. Did the plane try to avoid Indonesian airspace? A senior Malaysian government source has come out with an explosive allegation that flight 370 apparently steered a suspicious course to avoid Indonesian radar.
For the very latest on the search, I want to go to Perth where the news conference is about to take place. And our senior international correspondent Matthew Chance is there.
Matthew, any idea what we're going to hear in this press briefing?
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, it's going to be an update on the various missions that are under way, the search episodes that are under way out in the Indian Ocean.
There are two main areas of focus at the moment. The one is where the Chinese vessel 24 hours ago announced that it had two acoustic events. It found two pings or pulses underneath the ocean in two separate locations, two kilometers apart over a time period. They sent that British ship, the HMS Echo in order to investigate that, to try and verify it because there has been no verification it's been linked in any way to the Malaysian airliner that is missing.
There is a second area as well that is being look at as well. That's the Australian vessel, the Ocean Shield, very high-tech equipment there as given to or lent to the Australian Navy by the U.S. military to tow behind it and to try and track down that pinger as well that would be located on top of the black box flight recorder and the cockpit voice recorder as well.
Now, that's an interesting vessel because it's been there over the course of the past 24 hours or so, longer than that, even. And it also recorded what it describes as an acoustic event. It's a very high-tech bit of machinery that they got deployed there. It's a very high-tech ship as well.
So obviously, they feel there is reason enough because it's still there as far as we understand, there is reason enough for them to stay there, to continue to trawl and continue to take sands from the bottom of the ocean right there where they are located.
So the two different site are some 300 nautical miles distant from each other. They're in two separate locations there are other areas where they're searching as well. We're going to get an update now from Angus Houston, the chief coordinator of the international, the multinational search effort as to what the progress has been, whether they found something of significance, or whether they haven't.
LEMON: All right. Thank you very much, Matthew Chance. We appreciate it, again.
Whereas we are waiting, he walked out of that door last night. As soon as he walks up to the podium, we'll bring that to you live. Our panel of experts are here.
Joining me now, CNN aviation analyst Mary Schiavo. Also Allen Deal is a former air force accident investigator. CNN aviation correspondent Mr. Richard Quest, and CNN aviation Les Abend, audio expert Paul Ginsberg and CNN aviation analysis Michael Kay. Also Rob McCallum joins us by phone. He is an ocean search specialist and professional expedition leader.
So thanks to all of you. It's good to have you here.
Richard, you've been working around the clock, sir. And this is the moment for, you know, when these moments when we get news briefs that kind of is the reason we're doing this.
RICHARD QUEST, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: It is fascinating, because obviously to the east coast of the United States, it's a 12-hour time difference.
QUEST: So what happens now and in the next few hours, no disrespect to my colleagues during the day, what happens now and in the next few hours will set the agenda for what they will be talking about.
LEMON: Tomorrow when they wake up. Exactly.
QUEST: As New York. And of course it is only 9:00 on the west in Los Angeles. But I just think we're going to get -- I don't know why. I hope we hear more. But I think it's going to be an upset.
LEMON: Do you thinks it is going -- really? Why is that?
QUEST: I can't.
LEMON: At this late hour, you can't really put it into words. I think Les Abend sitting right next to you.
Les, do you believe that -- I believe that he would not announce that he is going to come out to say something if he had nothing to say and you believe the same thing.
LES ABEND, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: It's a gut feel. It's a complete conjecture on my part. But you know, I would like to put some things in perspective from the standpoint of, you know, these 239 lives that we don't know where they are, this is the whole purpose of accident investigation. This is why it's important to do that, to make sense out of losing these people. And I can't emphasize that enough. I think it's very important. And it hopefully will add some more perspective to this with Mr. Houston's statements.
LEMON: Rob McCallum, here we are again, as we were last night, awaiting a news conference, and where we got, really, some great information. The most information we have gotten out of the searchers, we got last night. And here we are again in the same position.
ROB MCCALLUM, OCEAN SEARCH SPECIALIST (via phone): Here we are again. And absolutely on tenterhooks. And you know, I'm not sure whether the media conferences in relation to the Echo or to Ocean Shield. But either one of these is tremendously exciting in terms of its potential to close this whole month.
LEMON: Mikey Kay, is Michael Kay still with us?
MICHAEL KAY, FORMER ADVISOR TO THE UK MILITARY OF DEFENSE: Yes, hi, Don.
LEMON: Hey, Michael, again, we were here last night between shows, you and I and Les Abend were out to dinner. And then we heard about this press conference and rushed back to cover it. We weren't sure what we were going to hear. Thought maybe it would just be an update, and got some really great information. Tonight we're hoping that there is some news here in the positive direction.
KAY: Yes, well, Don, let's just go back and have a quick summarize of what we heard yesterday. We heard one, that the actual ping wasn't verified. We heard, two, that the JACC was actually improving relations and communications with China. That was key. He reassured the families that every lead will be followed up, which is going to Les' point, absolutely fundamental. And then he also said that he was actually going to reprioritize some of the plethora of assets that we had to go and check out this new report. So I think he hit four key critical points yesterday.
And as Richard pointed out earlier on as well, you know, he is very keen to disseminate this information in a way which makes the families and loved ones of the 239 souls on board feel like they're adding credibility to this investigation. I think that's absolutely vital from air chief Marshall Houston's perspective.
LEMON: Yes. So this is how it happens, same as last night. They open the door. And there he is. Angus Houston stepping up to the podium now. Let's listen in.
ANGUS HOUSTON, AUSTRALIAN AIR CHIEF MARSHAL: OK. Good afternoon. First of all, I'd like to start by introducing. I have Commodore Leavy, the commander of the task force that is doing all the great search work out at sea. Bob Armstrong from the ATSB. And Mike Barton from AMSA.
Over on the left, I also have our subject matter expert on underwater salvage and rescue. And that's captain Matthews from the U.S. Navy. He will be available for one-on-one interviews at the end of the press conference.
Well, good afternoon. Yesterday I outlined a number of leads we were pursuing in relation to the search, the missing Malaysian airlines flight MH 370. Namely, the electronic pulse signals detected by the Chinese ship Haixun 01, and an acoustic noise being pursued by the Australian defense vessel Ocean Shield in her current location.
I stated that the Ocean Shield would be delayed from going to the approximate area where the Haixun 01 had detected the signals while she continued her own investigations. Today, I can report some very encouraging information which has unfolded over the last 24 hours. The towed pinger locator deployed from the Australian defense vessel Ocean Shield has detected signals consistent with those emitted by aircraft black boxes.
Two separate signal detections have occurred within the northern part of the defined search area. The first detection was held for approximately two hours and 20 minutes. The ship then lost contact before conducting a turn and attempting to reacquire the signal. The second detection on the return leg was held for approximately 13 minutes. On this occasion, two distinct pinger returns were audible.
Significantly, this would be consistent with transmissions from both the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder. Clearly, this is the most promising lead. And probably in the search so far, it's the -- it's probably the best information that we have had. And, again, I would ask all of you to treat this information cautiously and responsibly until such time as we can provide an unequivocal determination. We haven't found the aircraft yet. We need further confirmation. And I really stress this, it's very important.
Ocean shield remains in the immediate area and continues to try and regain contact with the towed pinger locator. To this point, it has not been able to reacquire the signals. There are many steps yet before these detections can be positively verified as being from missing flight MH 370.
Firstly, we need to fix the position. Then the Ocean Shield can lower the autonomous underwater vehicle Bluefin 21 into the water and attempt to locate wreckage on the sea floor.
Another source of evidence search as wreckage would verify this lead. The area in which the signals have been received has a depth of approximately 4,500 meters. This is also the limited capability of the autonomous underwater vehicle.
I need to be honest with you. It could take some days before the information is available to establish whether these detections can be confirmed as being from MH 370. In very deep oceanic water, nothing happens fast. Of course, I will update you once we have an unequivocal determination.
Ocean Shield will stay in its current area until such time as it can verify or discount the detections as being from MH 370. Work continues by Ocean Shield to refine the pinger detection location. We will continue to follow a methodical and carefully planned process of investigation to verify or discount.
A few words about today's search. Up to nine military aircraft, three civil aircraft and 14 ships will assist in today's search. The search area is around 234,000 square kilometers. Good weather is expected throughout the day with showers in the afternoon, although this is not --
Again, I thank all the men and women assisting in the search effort, including military personnel from around the world --
LEMON: We're having a problem there with the press conference in Perth, Australia. Let's listen in.
HOUSTON: I said I would come back to you on some relevant matters.
The Chinese ship Haixun 01 was on the southern extremity of the search area when it first detected a pulse signal. Let me say a few words about the search area. I'm going to refer to a map which will be available on the net following this conference.
Now, you all might recall the analysis by the experts that I referred to I think three days ago, three or four days ago. This was the analysis of the satellite signals and the aircraft simulation work. And what that revealed was there were a series of arcs which signified where each exchange or handshake occurred between the satellite and the aircraft. The sixth exchange is represented by this line here.
A short time after the sixth exchange, there was another exchange with a slightly different signal. This was a matter of I think about eight minutes after the sixth ping. And the expert team considered this as very significant. They think something happened at that stage and we assess that that's about where the aircraft would have run out of fuel.
Now, the search area is the underwater search area, which is reflected here is the area where the aircraft might have entered the water is reflected by these boxes here. Do not worry about the other search areas because the aircraft had been looking for wreckage on the surface and had been taking a count of 30 days of oceanic drift. But the satellite has essentially given us this area here as the most likely place where MH 370 entered the water.
Now, what is significant about this is that yesterday or a couple of days ago, Haixun 01 had its encounter with the electronic pulse in this location here. Ocean Shield is currently working up in this location there. So all of the search underwater is being enabled by that wonderful work that was done by the expert team in Kuala Lumpur. And their work has enabled us to come up with an underwater search area which is quite narrowly focused and, you know, with the acoustic events that we're getting this the area, we are encouraged that we're very close to where we need to be.
So I just put that on the table because people have asked the question, and I think we need to explain it. And what's the difference between this end of the box and that end of the box? It's the assumptions that relate to the aircraft's speed. If the aircraft was traveling slower than normal, it would be this area up here where the aircraft might have ended up. If the aircraft was traveling faster than perhaps normal or a bit faster than here, it would end up in this area here.
So that is the -- that is why we are searching in this area here. And the most promising lead at this stage is the event I described first up with Ocean Shield in this location here. This graphic will be up on the net after this press conference.
Yesterday I also stated Ocean Shield had a remotely operated vehicle on board. That is not the case. The capability embarked and which I've already mentioned is a Bluefin 21 autonomous underwater vehicle with a side scan sonar capability for the accurate mapping of the seabed. Of course it can also have a camera attached to it if the need arises.
Ocean Shield is capable of carrying and deploying a remote operated vehicle, but does not currently have one embarked. Options for the future employment of a remote operated vehicle are being collected an considered.
I'm now happy to take your questions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: If the black box batteries were to die in the next day or so, do you feel we're now close enough that you would be able to effectively find the wreckage of the plane if it is indeed there?
HOUSTON: I think that the lead we've got at the moment justifies a very thorough prosecution. Obviously, we are doing that the first thing we're doing is trying to fix the position on the basis of the returns, the transmissions that were picked up earlier on. Hopefully we will reacquire those transmissions.
But you're right. The life of the batteries must be getting somewhere close to the end of life. It's about 31 days. So we're already one day past the advertised shelf life. We hope that it keeps going for a little bit longer. But then we need to go down first of all with the autonomous underwater vehicle to map the ocean floor.
The subject matter expertise that is available will be able to determine if there is something unusual on the sea floor like aircraft wreckage. And in the event of finding something unusual, the autonomous vehicle will come back to the surface and will then be fitted with a camera. And hopefully we would then be able to pick up imagery.
Now I stress this is very deep water, 4,500 meters. And the limitation on depth in terms of this vehicle is 4,500 meters. So we're right on the edge of capability. And we might be limited by the capability if, for example, the aircraft ended up in deeper water.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: One, that possible that the signal detected by the Ocean Shield and the Chinese ship are different black box, the one belonging to the flight data recorder and the other one belonging to the cockpit voice recorder? And another question is what is the moment we want to know, what is the moment for a official confirming that the signal consistent with the aircraft? It must be followed (INAUDIBLE).
HOUSTON: Yes. In terms of both of those events, they're in the area of probability. That was worked out by the experts by Kuala Lumpur. So we have to prosecute both contacts. We don't know at the moment. We don't have any confirmation that one or the other is significant enough for us to say yes, this is where the aircraft is. We have to have further confirmation. And I would put it to you that we cannot confirm until we have found some wreckage. And that's why the work that the Bluefin 21, the work that it does is absolutely vital in the immediate future.
And, of course, we need a good position on the ocean floor to be able to prosecute a quick and efficient search. If we're dealing with an imprecise position, it's going to take a lot longer, because we'll have to search a much larger area.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: The timeline of the -- Ocean Shield exactly when -- is it possible that the series of detections by Ocean Shield versus the series of detections by the Chinese, could they be from the same signal, or are they definitely different events and therefore one or the other?
HOUSTON: Well, the two events, that search area is over 300 nautical miles long. One was at one extremity, the other at the other extremity. So I would say unlikely that they're the same event. But in deep water, funny things happen with acoustic signals, particularly with different temperatures, layering, and so on. And I might actually get commodore levy to speak about that in a moment. In terms of time frame, I don't think you were here yesterday, but I referred to the fact that just before the press conference, we were starting to hear that Ocean Shield had made a contact, but we had no detail at that stage. And over the last 24 hours, and indeed probably for the next 24 hours, Ocean Shield will continue its runs back and forth over the area.
I might add this is a very time intensive operation because it's towing a lot of cable. And to turn it around to come back again takes three hours to turn around. Well, the detections, as I understand it, the first detections were around the middle of the night. Not last night, the night before.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: And then how many the frequency?
HOUSTON: There has been two contacts thus far. And they were early on in the process. And the precise times I haven't got for you. But one of those contacts was two hours and 20 minutes. The other contact happened on the second run. So we can get the precise time for you. But I was -- I would suggest it's probably several hours later, given that it takes three hours to turn the whole setup around. And the other question you had? Is that -- I've answered it. Right.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: The pinger, how precise are you able to locate at this point? Is it within a couple of miles or is it within 100 miles?
HOUSTON: What I might do is ask one of the subject matter expert, Commodore Leavy to address your question. And you might just add a little bit on some of the challenges associated with the work that is being done underwater.
COMMODORE PETER LEAVY, ROYAL AUSTRALIAN NAVY: I might just open with some of the challenges we face. As you've heard, most of the -- all of the detections that are happening at the most are acoustic. You can think of it essentially as deployed microphones listening for sound. And on the towed pinger locator, that's sitting approximately 3,000 meters below the surface of the ocean.
Unlike in air where sound travels in a straight line, acoustic energy sound through the water is greatly affected by temperature, pressure, and salinity. And that has the effect of attenuating, bending, sometimes through 90 degrees sound waves. So it is quite possible and very hard to predict. It's quite possible for sound to travel great distances laterally, but be very difficult to hear at the surface of the ocean for instance. So it is a remarkably different environment with what you see with sound traveling through air. And it's a very specialized skill set that is being employed at the moment.
In terms of the towed pinger locator, we're expecting around a 2,000 yard detection range. So you can picture now moving through knot through the water or five kilometers an hour with a detection range of around two miles. That's a very small piece of the area that is being searched.
Ocean Shield at the moment is on a fifth leg of a search that is an expanding square around that initial detection point. That will take or she will continue on that profile for another 24 hours. If they gain another acoustic event on that towed pinger locator, that will be the trigger at the moment to launch the autonomous underwater vehicle with the more accurate sonar and camera for mapping and visually looking at the ocean floor. But at the moment, that's not deployed. The focus is on trying to reacquire the acoustic signal that they had 24 hours ago.
In terms of area, by the end of tomorrow when they completed their runs, they expect to have a 3x3 mile box searched. So it is a quite a small area that will be searched very thoroughly. But it is a very small area. And that gives I hope some sense of the challenges that they're facing out there. Keep in mind each of the runs they conduct is around seven miles long. With the turn attend, it takes some time, around seven to eight hours to do each leg and to do the turn at the end. They need to steady on the new course and allow the towed pinger to complete the turn and then settle down. So it is a very, very slow and painstaking process.
We have the best this the world out there doing it, though. So we're confident that if there is a -- the pinger out there and it's still radiating, we're quite confident that we should find that we've got the best in the world engaged in this task. Thank you very much.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: I'm not sure who will answer this. But when we're talking about acoustic signals with frequency consistent with those emitted by the black boxes, what it is at that frequency?
HOUSTON: Well, I think we just have to be very, very careful because we need to confirm it in my view with imagery of wreckage.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Is there anything in the natural world that emits?
HOUSTON: I don't -- my view is, my personal view is probably not. But as you just heard, strange things do happen in the ocean. And I would want more confirmation before we say this is it. The point is this correlates very well with the work that was done in Kuala Lumpur. And essentially, this has been done without finding any wreckage thus far. And I think it's quite extraordinary.
And what I'd like to see now is us find some wreckage. Because that will -- that will basically help solve the mystery. And I would ask you to respect that. Because fundamentally, without wreckage, we can't say it's definitely here. We've got to go down and have a look. And hopefully we'll find it somewhere in the area that we have narrowed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: How optimistic are you at this point?
HOUSTON: Well, I'm much more optimistic than I was a week ago. And some of you saw me a week ago. I was really concerned because we hadn't found any wreckage, which is usually I think in most other searches of this nature the narrowing of the search area and the potential finding of the downed aircraft has been enabled by wreckage on the surface.
Just wait a minute. And essentially, this to my knowledge right in the middle of the ocean, this is quite an extraordinary set of circumstances that we're now in a very well defined search area, which hopefully will eventually yield the information that we need to say MH 370 might have entered the water just here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: You said there were two sequences -- (INAUDIBLE) did you get a sense of how --
HOUSTON: I will get the subject matter expert to have a word. I've heard the -- I've heard the -- what we've got is we have a visual on a screen, and we also have got an audible signal. The audible signal sounds to me just like an emergency locator beacon. And what we're talking about, there were two separate pingers. What we're probably looking at on the second run is the fact that not only had the main emergency locator beacon, but also the cockpit voice recorder. That's the sort of signals we're getting. Do you want something more than that?
LEAVY: My understanding is they were around 2,000 yards, just under 2,000 yards apart. Of note, the first detection was made whilst the towed pinger locator had been retracted. So it was much shallower. The reason they do that is at the end of each turn, as the ship turns around, Ocean Shield reverses course. If they don't retract the towed pinger, the effective movement through the water slows down, the pinger will sink, because the ship movement is reduced.
So it's brought up close to the service. That also helped speed up the turn. Once it's around they speed up again. The first detection was obtained while the towed pinger locator was at a relatively shallow depth. And given that it's within about 1800 yards to 2,000 yards, the two detections, that would be consistent with the sound anomalies that I mentioned before, the different propagation parts. So it's quite possible that even though they assess it to be within around 18 it's quite possible it could be from the same source.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: You're going to reacquire, would be your next course of options?
HOUSTON: Well, we're very focused at the moment on exhausting the investigation into that source. And that's going to take quite some considerable degree of time. For example, for the rest of the day, I would imagine and probably in to tomorrow we will still be doing towed pinger runs over this area.
Now, when that's finished, probably the next thing would be to -- let's say if we find we're able to fix the location, we will send the autonomous underwater vehicle straight down. If we're unable to fix the location, the people are out there have to do an analysis of everything they've got and make an assessment as to whether they would deploy the underwater vehicle to go down and have a look in the most likely area. So I would anticipate that's what will happen.
The underwater vehicle will be deployed. And we'll continue to work. And just to emphasize again, if we have a large area of uncertainty, it will take several days to actually cover a fairly -- what would appear to be a fairly small area. Things happen very slowly at the depths that we're dealing with. Do you want to say anymore of that? I think that covers it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: This ability to search area, are there any that are deeper than 4,500?
HOUSTON: Absolutely. We're dealing with very deep water. Some of the water out there exceeds 5,000 meters which is going to be very challenging and very demanding. And we will need -- we will need other vehicles to go down there to that depth. (CROSSTALK)
HOUSTON: Sorry, this gentleman here first.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: We can see you got some useful information by the ship search. Does it mean you will refuse the aircraft searching?
HOUSTON: No, not at all. Not at all. Because I mentioned the need to find wreckage. We have not seen any wreckage at all yet. And I think in previous incidents, accidents involving aircraft over the water, sometimes quite a big piece of wreckage is found in the water. Witness what happened with the air France disaster a few years ago. The only large piece of wreckage that was found on the surface was actually the tail. So I think we need to continue the search.
And, again, I emphasize this is not the end of the search. We've still got a lot of difficult painstaking work to do to confirm that this is indeed where the aircraft entered the water. And I would not be prepared to confirm that this is the spot where the aircraft is at on the present evidence.
We need more evidence. And the best evidence we could find is imagery from the autonomous vehicle that suggests the wreckage is on the bottom of the ocean and a photograph that demonstrates that. And we can then say this is where the aircraft entered the water and the wreckage is on the floor of the ocean.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Have you -- On the floor of the ocean, what would be the next step?
HOUSTON: Well, we then go into -- we then go into the recovery operation. And the recovery operation, as we saw with the air force circumstances will take a long, long time. And just depending on the circumstances, I'm not prepared to speculate about that. We could need to -- the starting point will be to sort of map where wreckage is and all the rest of it. And that will take a period of time. And that will be the vital starting point for whatever unfolds after that.
But it's very deep water, very difficult. I guess I was involved as chief of the defense force with the recovery of a helicopter off the coast of Fiji. We knew exactly where the helicopter went into the water. And it took us a long, long time to recover the Blackhawk and the person who was inside it.
So I just emphasis nothing will happen quickly. We're talking about a long operation here which will be measured in months. And we have yet to find the aircraft. OK.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Will the priority be --
HOUSTON: One more question, and I'll take it over here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Is there in regards to the object found?
HOUSTON: Yes, yes. Apparently they have been checked out. And they have no relationship to MH 370.
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for coming today. And I'm sorry. We could be here all day. Thank you very much for coming along.
And, again, I stress we need to think about the families here. We have a promising lead but we have yet to get the confirming evidence. And that will be a long process. But we have been as open as we can be with you. We're hiding nothing. And that's the circumstances as they stand right now.
Thank you very much.
LEMON: OK. So there you heard it from the man in charge of this search, that they have picked up something that they believe is consistent with data recorders from the airplane, consistent, not confirmed yet.
And here is what they're saying. They're saying that the Ocean Shield. This isn't from the Haixun 01. This is not from the Chinese vessel that apparently picked up. This is from the Ocean Shield, which is an Australian vessel carrying an American, a U.S. towed pinger locator. They said they detected something that was emitted -- sounded like it was emitted by a black box, an acoustic event that lasted two hours and 20 minutes. And then they lost contact with that because they were making a turn. And then they heard it a second time for 13 minutes. And he is calling this the most encouraging piece of news or information that they have gotten in all of this, in this whole time.
My panel of experts are with me now. Consistent and I think it's really important, I thought the most important part that he mentioned this evening, and Richard, you picked up on that as well is when he said we have seen it on the screens, which means they have watched it, right, the shape of these signals, and they have also heard it. And he believes it's consistent with an emergency signal. That's important.
QUEST: Exactly. From the black box.
LEMON: From a black box.
QUEST: He went as close as he dare without saying it is.
QUEST: Clearly, this is the most promising lead and probably in the search so far. It's probably the best information we have had, you know, that is it's in the right zone. It refines down to where the satellite work that has been done by the international group is. This is as close as we're going to get until they get assets into the water.
LEMON: Stand by. Let's get some more information here.
Joining me now on the phone is Commander William Jay Marks, U.S. 7th fleet public affairs officer. He is out on the USS Blueridge right now. What can you tell us about this?
COMMANDER WILLIAM JAY MARKS, U.S. 7TH FLEET PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICER (via phone): Hello, yes. What I'd like to do is walk you through exactly how this team, the Navy team and the Australian team on board the Ocean Shield, walk you through the detection. And just to give you an idea of the process that our folks go through. So and what that will do is in addition to having general information, I can walk you through it a little bit.
LEMON: OK, go ahead, commander.
MARKS: Sure. The way we do it is this was a period of significant detection activity. We heard consecutive pings at about one-second intervals. That was the first indication. At that time, the towed pinger locator was only about 300 meters deep. Now that's not as deep as you would expect. So at that point, it was encouraging to get a signal. However, we were not overly optimistic. So that was at 300 meters.
At that point, the Ocean Shield, you turn off all your noise producing equipment. You want to reduce any false alarm. They did that. And at that point, they held that signal again for over two hours. And now, at that point, the PCL was lowered to about 1400 meters. So that was deeper. And that is more where you would expect to get this signal.
As you tow the tow pinger locator, the signals should get stronger and then fade as you good past it, if that is indeed the black box. And that's what it did. It got stronger, and then it faded out. So that was encouraging news.
After that, they passed the signal. What you do is you reel it back in, and you do a course change. This was a very slow course change that was mentioned in the press conference earlier. You get on a course change, we lower the depth to about 3,000 meters. Now, 3,000 meters, that's pretty much the optimal depth where we would expect if you were hearing something in the black box.
At this time we detected about 15 more minutes or so of this pinging. We're at different locations. So that is actually a good point. Because, remember, there are two black boxes. One is the flight data recorder. Then the second is the cockpit voice recorder. So it's actually was an encouraging sign that we detected the same frequency at different locations. So overall, we are cautiously optimistic. This is a 24-hour operation. We've got our Navy team out there along with the Australians, working together. It's very encouraging. Once again, just cautiously optimistic at this time.
LEMON: OK. So commander, if you'll bear with me, I understand you're on a satellite phone and it's a little tough. I just want to recap for our viewers, and then correct me if I'm wrong. You said that you detected in the waters a signal that was one second in interval, right?
MARKS: That's correct. And that is what we would have expected.
LEMON: And that was at 300 meters deep, right, what you thought was a little odd, because it wasn't deep. Right?
MARKS: That's correct.
LEMON: And then you turned off all noise-producing devices or anything on board the ship so that you wouldn't be getting a false reading. Correct?
MARKS: Yes, correct.
LEMON: Then you lowered to 1400 meters?
LEMON: Correct. And then when you lowered to 1400 meters, you got a stronger signal, right, which then faded a bit?
MARKS: Yes. And that's actually encouraging news because as you move toward it, the signal should get stronger. And then as you pass it and away from it, it should get weaker.
LEMON: OK. So then you said you reeled it in and you did a course change, right?
MARKS: That's correct. And you change courses to about the opposite direction is typical.
LEMON: So once you did a course change, you lowered it to 3,000 meters, right?
MARKS: Yes, that's correct.
LEMON: And then you said you detected it for -- it is 1-5 minutes, or 5-0 minutes?
MARKS: That's 1-5, 15 minutes. And two hours previously.
LEMON: OK. So that's where you are now?
MARKS: That's correct.
LEMON: So are you detecting one device or two devices? Is this one ping or two pings?
MARKS: Well, we have -- we did detect pings from slightly different locations. And once again, you have to remember there are two black boxes. So that is a good signal. That's OK.
LEMON: From two slightly different locations, you said. Now, were they different in intervals, because they may not be on the same intervals, right? They may not be synchronized, according to our audio expert here. Were they the same sort of signal, or do you know? MARKS: Yes, that's true. They would most likely not be synchronized. And they obviously were consistent with what we would expect from these black boxes.
LEMON: So you're getting both, you believe, CVR and FDR?
MARKS: That's the initial indication. But once again, without confirmation, real confirmation will come when we can get the side scan sonar out there down there and get an actual picture.
QUEST: Commander, it's Richard Quest. Just to confirm this, just for absolutely clarity, sir. Are you saying you think you've heard the same box twice or two different boxes? The CVR and the FDR?
MARKS: So we've heard similar frequencies, but different locations. So that we believe could have been an indication of two separate beacons.
LEMON: Got it. We got you. Thank you. How far apart?
MARKS: That I don't know.
LEMON: Don't know. Commander, thank you very much.
Breaking news. That's all I'll say. We have to take a break here. The most encouraging news we've had since this plane went missing. You do not want to tune away. We're going have more coming right after this short break.
LEMON: All right. Breaking news into CNN. The man in charge of this search saying himself that this is a most encouraging bit of information coming out regarding missing flight 370 -- Malaysia airlines flight 370. Just within the last 24 hours, that they have heard two similar signals in two different locations that are consistent, they believe, with black boxes from airplanes.
OK. Joining me now on the phone is Commander William Marks from the U.S. 7th fleet. He is from the public affairs. He is aboard the USS Blueridge. They've been assisting in the search. But he is in Japan right now.
You have been explaining to us what you have found, right? You said one of them was found and picked up for two and a half hours. The other one for about 15 minutes. Correct, Commander?
MARKS: Yes, that's correct.
MARKS: Reciprocal courses.
LEMON: OK, Commander, stand by because I want you to listen now to Angus Houston, what he said about detecting this information, and then you and I will talk with our panel of experts here. Take a listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOUSTON: I've heard the -- what we got is we got a visual indication on the screen. We've also got an audible signal. The audible signal sounds to me just like an emergency locator beacon. And what we're talking about, there were two separate pingers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: OK. So you hear what he said there? He said we have visual indication on the screen, which our audio expert here said earlier before we even got wind of this, you said they would be look agent this visually on the screen because they probably could not hear it. And then he has an audible indication as well, which is consistent with an emergency signal from a black box. Encouraging.
PAUL GINSBERG, AUDIO EXPERT: Absolutely. 100 percent. Is the commander --
LEMON: The commander is there. Go ahead.
GINSBERG: Commander, do you think that the signal you heard for two hours 20 minutes and the one you heard for 13 minutes were two different ones?
MARKS: So we do have -- there was a slight difference in frequency. And so typically, if these were brand-new and sitting right in front of you, they would be at about the same frequency. However, they were at a slightly different frequency, which -- that's the reason we're being very cautious in our optimism. But that could be for any number of reasons, pressure, the type of water or anything like that. So there was a slight variation or frequency. And that's why it is extremely important to do two more things. One, we have to reacquire this signal if we can. That's what we're out there doing.
And remember, this only gets to the direction and the location of the black box. The side scan sonar is what is going to get you that visual confirmation. That's really what we need. So the TPL, the towed pinger locator, is just to get you in the right spot. And then the crews deploy the Bluefin (INAUDIBLE).
LEMON: Could this have anything to do with the battery -- the battery life being at its end?
MARKS: Great question. I'm not an expert in the black boxes. But there are so many variables. The battery --
LEMON: I understand that.
OK. Go ahead. Michael Kay has a question for you.
KAY: Hi, commander, it's Michael Kay speaking. I'm fascinated to know, all being well, you'll re-pick up this signal. Once you have picked it up, or both of them, what is the process of fixing that location? LEMON: OK, commander, can you do me a favor? I have got to get to a break. Can you stick with me on the other side of the break? I just have 15 seconds before we must get to a break. And we'll answer Michael Kay's question on the other side of the break with the commander out on the USS Blueridge.
Don't go anywhere. Breaking news here on CNN.