The hunt for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 encountered a major problem Monday when an underwater sonar module struck a subsea volcano and was severed from the ship towing it.
The cable snapped when the so-called towfish collided with a mud volcano which rises 2,200 meters from the sea floor, the Australian government’s Joint Agency Coordination Centre said in a statement.
“The towfish and 4,500 meters of cable became separated from the vessel and are now lying on the sea floor,” it said.
“There were no injuries to crew and it is believed it will be possible to recover the towfish at a later date.”
The agency said the ship Fugro Discovery, one of several mapping the deep ocean where the wreckage of MH370 is thought to lie, is now returning to the Australian port of Freemantle, where a replacement cable will be fitted.
The Australian government is coordinating the search for the missing plane in an effort supported by China and Malaysia. A range of private-sector companies are also involved, ranging from avionics specialists to the operators of satellite links.
To date, the search has identified no remains of the plane.
It has, however, found and photographed two unidentified shipwrecks at extreme depths, one in May last year and the second on Jan. 13.