Though the search for the missing Malaysian Airlines plane, which disappeared over a year ago now, has not turned up any harder leads, the crew did find something else: a shipwreck.
"It’s a fascinating find," Peter Foley, director of the MH370 search, said, according to the Guardian. "But it’s not what were looking for."
The discovery announced in an operation update by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau Wednesday described how the Fugro Equator's deep tow system used sonar to detect something in the southern part of the search area in the Indian Ocean.
The sonar data suggested that it was "of potential interest but unlikely to be related to MH370," the update stated, but "it could not, however, be ruled out."
High-resolution sonar was used to get more detailed information of the objects on the seabed about 3,900 meters below.
"The majority of the contacts were comparatively small – around the size of a cricket ball – interspersed with a few larger items, the biggest being box shaped and approximately 6 metres in its longest dimension," the update described. "The debris field appeared to be of man-made origin but once again it did not exhibit all the characteristics of a typical aircraft debris field."
Then, the team sent down an autonomous underwater vehicle equipped with an underwater camera to take pictures of the debris field.
"Analysis of the images this week revealed that the debris was indeed man-made, but indicated that it was actually the wreck of a ship," the update stated. "This wreck is previously uncharted and the imagery will be provided to expert marine archaeologists for possible identification."
Ocean Shield slips from the wharf at HMAS Stirling on May 10, 2014 in Rockingham, Australia. The Australian Defence Vessel Ocean Shield is departing for the MH370 search area today after resupplying at HMAS Stirling. (Paul Kane/Getty Images)
According to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Western Australia Maritime Museum Curator Michael McCarthy said the vessel appears to be a cargo ship from the 19th century.
"The best we can do at the moment is a mid-to late 19th century wooden hold, iron sailing ship and of unknown origin but of European-style build," McCarthy told ABC.
According to the Guardian, Foley said this discovery shows that there is promise in the team and equipment they are using to find anything that could be related to MH370 in the ocean.
"And this event has really demonstrated that the systems, people and the equipment involved in the search are working well. It’s shown that if there’s a debris field in the search area, we’ll find it," Foley said.
As for the continued search for the Boeing 777, which went off radar on March 8, 2014, as it flew from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board, the operation update from the transport safety bureau stated that they are making modifications to allow for quick and effective search of the 120,000-square-kilometer area over the winter season. That includes an expansion on the previous search area.
The update stated that according to its experts, there is the highest probability the plane is within the 120,000-square-kilometer search area.