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Search Challenges; West Coast Quakes; Pinger Locator Heads to Search Site

Aired March 31, 2014 - 08:30   ET


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's -- we've been in this new search area for a handful of days now. Nothing concrete has come out of it that we well know. Let's talk about - let's put it in perspective of what we're talking about. This is in the middle of nowhere is the nicest way to say it.

MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: We're right now in the middle of nowhere, yes.

BOLDUAN: And when you talk about the new refined searches area we're showing you right here, it's about the size of New Mexico. And folks might think, at least it's not the entire size of the United States, but we're not even sure that that's necessarily -- this is our best guess.

MARKS: Correct. This is based on a number of calculations that have been done based on estimates of air speed, altitude, amount of fuel burned, sea states, wind directions. We haven't seen any hard evidence. But can you get close. So hopefully we're close. But you're exactly correct, we could be looking very, very precisely in the wrong area.

BOLDUAN: It's very easy to do that in such a vast area.


BOLDUAN: We're talking about an area the size of New Mexico. With all of the resources that they have at their hands right now, is that easy to cover?

MARKS: No. This is an extremely difficult task. Look, we've got a number of nations that are involved, a number of aircraft, a number of ships. All of that has to come together and be coalesced and brought together. It's being done in Perth. So they created a joint task force.


MARKS: And this is a coalition of the willing. These nations have raised their hand and they said, we're humanitarians, we care, we're going to get involved. We don't know how long it's going to take or how long they'll be there. But just bringing all this together is a monumental task as well.

BOLDUAN: And I do want to ask you about that, but let's offer some additional perspective. We're not only talking about an area the size of New Mexico. The good thing is, this is closer to Perth.

MARKS: Sure.

BOLDUAN: Closer to the takeoff point than where it was.

MARKS: It used to be down here.

BOLDUAN: It used to be down here a little bit more.

MARKS: Right.

BOLDUAN: Now we're talking about -- the distance is from New York to Key West. That's not a short distance to say the least -

MARKS: But that's a long -

BOLDUAN: But it's still helping them to linger over the area longer, right?

MARKS: Absolutely. This is still a very long commute, but it gives you shorter legs from Perth out, gives you more time on station. As they say, you mow the ocean and you go across this area very methodically. This is not haphazard. This is a very, what I would say controlled and very dedicated effort. But it gives you an opportunity to spend more time there, but you also are very mindful of the amount of fuel you have -


MARKS: And you've got to get back.

BOLDUAN: And this is really an unusual and unprecedented effort, a coalition of countries coming together. We've got seven countries, 10 planes, 10 ships -

MARKS: Right.

BOLDUAN: That are in the area. And we can show you all of it. And we're talking about some of the most hi-tech surveillance aircraft that you can get. You really have every trick in your tool-kit at your disposal -

MARKS: You do.

BOLDUAN: That they're trying for. How - I mean look at everything that's out there and all the nations that are coordinating this. How long can they keep up this level of assistance, do you think?

MARKS: Kate, that's a great question. The real effort here is, each one of these nations is here because they want to be here. That's number one. Number two is, what will draw them away? If there's no confirming data here, how long can they continue to do this? They have other missions. Each one of these countries has a certain capability based on what they think they have to have in order to meet their national objectives. This is one of their national objectives right now. How long can this last? It is up to anybody's guess. Now, the prime minister in Australia said, we're here for the long haul. This is going to work forever. The Malaysians, clearly, are going to have to focus on this forever. The United States will be a part of this. But this joint task force is going to remain in place and they will have other assets, they will be fewer in number as these nations go about their business. They have other things they have to do.

BOLDUAN: And they're already swapping out crews. I went up with the New Zealand Air Force and they had -- already had to swap out their crew. I mean they're flying more hours in one month than they -- in a couple of days -

MARKS: They're getting all their log books filled up, yes.

BOLDUAN: Yes, exactly. They were - I mean they were joke. They're like, this is more than we've done in a month and we've done it in a couple of weeks. So let's -- we've been talking about a lot of the surface effort, and that's where the focus is. You've got to get eyes on the surface. But the problem is also the depth of this ocean.

MARKS: It's phenomenally deep here. It's amazingly deep.

BOLDUAN: Amazing. You - we're talking miles.

MARKS: You could be sitting on - you could be sitting on the black box and you'd have to ping a distance of almost three miles.

BOLDUAN: So you've got this trench. It's the - I always mess up the name. It's the -

MARKS: Diamantina.

BOLDUAN: There we go. I'm glad you can say it, not me. This trench, it's twice - more than twice the depth of the Grand Canyon. Just offer a little bit of perspective on how deep we're talking here. We don't know if anything fell into the trench.

MARKS: Correct.

BOLDUAN: We really don't know one way or the other, obviously. But that poses a huge additional challenge to try to track anything, especially the black box, right?

MARKS: We can get down there. The nations have the capability. The technology exists.

BOLDUAN: You really can get down that deep?

MARKS: You can get - you can get down there. The challenge is, are we in the right area?


MARKS: Do we know? How can we continue to work what evidence we can find to refine this search area? And then if you have to get deep, you go deep.

BOLDUAN: And that's really deep.

MARKS: Yes. Yes.

BOLDUAN: So you need to know exactly where you're going to go. You can't just go on a fishing expedition down there.

MARKS: Correct. And there is a process. So there's a lot of process that's taking place right now. And we need to hope that you would begin to eliminate options to further refine. Just like we've eliminated that northern track.

BOLDUAN: Right. Right.

MARKS: There are indicators that would have popped up had that been viable. We would have seen those by now. So we can discount that. We need to take that same type of analysis and process and apply it here.

BOLDUAN: So we can at least take some optimism and hope and comfort in the fact that we've - we are refining -


BOLDUAN: While it's never going to be enough for all of the families who are waiting for answers on their loved ones.

MARKS: Sure.

BOLDUAN: We're eliminating and refining. We're now to the size of New Mexico. We'll see if we can get it any further. Let's get it down to Rhode Island at least.

MARKS: True. True.

BOLDUAN: Major General, thank you very much for your expertise.



If we're going to talk about the challenges, boy you ought to talk about the conditions there as well, not just the search parameter. So when we come back, we're going to have a live report from on board one of the ships that is out in the elements right now.

More bad elements as well going on in California, jolted by earthquakes. A sign of disaster waiting to happen or is this just the normal out there? Is the state prepared no matter what? We'll tell you.



Could this be a season of big earthquakes? On Sunday, we saw the largest earthquake in 34 years at Yellowstone National Park. That came after two strong earthquakes in as many weeks in southern California that were followed by a whole load of aftershocks. Now some scientists are concerned about a fault that could bring an even stronger earthquake, the Puente Hills Thrust Fault, which runs along a large swath of southern California.

Dr. Lucy Jones is a seismologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, the USGS, and she's a visiting research associate at Caltech Seismological Laboratory and he joins us this morning bright and early in California. We should point out that it's 5:00 a.m. there. But as you said, seismologists are up when there's an earthquake and I guess this has been a busy couple of weeks for you.

LUCY JONES, SEISMOLOGIST, U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY: Yes. It's a -- on the general - on the big scale, these aren't very big earthquakes. But being right under a lot of people, a lot of people felt them. And it's been abnormally quiet in L.A. since the Northridge Earthquake. So it's a surprise to people who moved here recently.

PEREIRA: Well, let's talk about that. A couple of things here. I think that people are surprised that there's been a lull since Northridge back in '94. Is that surprising, is that unusual or is that telling?

JONES: Well, it's not -- it doesn't imply a big earthquake in the future. When you're not having earthquakes, you're not having earthquakes. But it's also something we can't have as a long term.

We've actually seen this happen before. The rate sort of goes up and down. And it's been so quiet, that can't be the long term. At some point we have to turn back up.

Now, we've had these two big earthquakes. That's definitely more than we've been having for quite a while. Maybe we've returned to a higher level. We'll know after another year or so and see what thing - what other things happen.

PEREIRA: I think that's the big question that a lot of - I talked to a lot of people in California over the weekend and we were talking about the fact that there were all of these aftershocks, 100 at least they were saying. And a lot of people, you know what locals will always say, well, that means we're in for the big one or it's earthquake weather. There's no science to that, is there?

JONES: No. What it is, is that people want to make patterns out of the earthquakes because - it's because the randomness is what makes them frightening. And we always -- we find patterns in anything. We make constellations, right?


JONES: But the aftershocks are very normal. People have just forgotten what the aftershocks to a five look like because it's been so long. This is an absolutely average sequence and we're going to be feeling some more aftershocks over the next week two. We might even have a felt aftershock a month or more away. People forget that that's what the normal pattern is. PEREIRA: So you talked about that, the randomness of this. And we are looking for patterns. There's no pattern. There's no tell-tale signs. We can't -- the best we can do is to understand these faults. And from what I can tell, there is a whole variety of them underneath Los Angeles and all through southern California?

JONES: Well, that's right. We have over 100 faults large enough to produce at least a magnitude six and we have almost 11 million people in the county. So L.A. County alone has one quarter of the nation's seismic risk.


JONES: Because we've put so many people on so many faults.

Now, after -- we thought mapping the fault would tell us where all the really big earthquakes were, and then Northridge happened on a fault we hadn't mapped. After that, we went and looked for other faults like that, and that's when we found this Puente Hills Thrust. So that was discovered in the '90s. We've been talking about it for a while. We've done models of what a big earthquake would be like on it. This is the first earthquake close to it since we knew that it was there. It's not actually on the main surface, but it's in part of the damage zone that's around the fault.

PEREIRA: Tell us more about this Puente Hills Thrust Fault because I think it's -- a lot of people are familiar across the nation with San Andreas and there's a few others that we know about. Tell us about this. And they take on their own sort of personality, don't they?

JONES: Well, yes, to a certain extent. So the San Andreas is the big showy one. It has a big earthquake very rapidly by geologic standards. Up like every 100 to 150 years. The Puente Hills is a slower moving fault. Its big earthquakes are probably once over - only every 2,000 years or so, 250 - but 2,000 I should - 2,500. But when they happen, they're extraordinarily devastating because being right on top of a fault makes things very different. And this fault runs under all of the most densely and -- populated and oldest parts of the city. So we have a lot of buildings that are built before we had building codes -


JONES: Sitting right on top of this. And that's why our big concern in L.A. is about what we call the nonductal (ph) concrete buildings and our soft (ph) first (ph) story apartments. The ones where you have like part - tuck under parking. Those we've seen kill people in previous earthquakes.


JONES: They're widespread across the city and we need to find a way to get rid of them.

PEREIRA: I know you've been working with the city and the county to sort of get Los Angeles ready. The fact is, you know, there's -- it's been a while and some of us are out of practice. Give us a little refresher of the best things - and especially when you think about Los Angeles is a destination for many visitors from around the world who are maybe not familiar with what to do in case an earthquake shakes. Give us a little preparedness.

JONES: OK. That's a really good point. For all those visitors who come, your instinct, when an earthquake hits is to run outside. And that's a very bad thing to do. You can injure yourself running and you run into the path of things that are flying around. So we say drop, cover, hold on. Get to the ground before the earthquake throws you there. Then see if you have something that can cover you to protect you from flying objects and hold on to it. So that's very important. We practice it each year in the "Shakeout" (ph) because it is against our instincts, but it is the safest things to do.

PEREIRA: Absolutely.

JONES: And then there's a lot of other things, if you live here or are visiting here that you can do. has the seven steps to earthquake safety.

PEREIRA: It's a great resource.

JONES: Yes, the -- because, in fact, most damage is preventable.


JONES: And most houses in Los Angeles are not built to the most recent code and can be made safer.

PEREIRA: That's right.

JONES: So I'm strongly encouraging anybody who owns a building, talk to an engineer or a foundation specialist and figure out what you can do to make it safer, because if we don't kill people in our building, but we can't use them after the earthquake, how many people are going to stay here and we're going to have real trouble getting our economy going again.

PEREIRA: Absolutely. That's right. Very good points you make. Dr. Lucy Jones, always a pleasure to talk to you. Thank you so much for getting up so very early for us here on NEW DAY. Important stuff.

JONES: Thank you for having me.


CUOMO: Drop, cover and hold on. Good advice during an earthquake. Same advice we give you while watching this show.

We're going to take a break on NEW DAY. When we come back we're going to go inside the search for Flight 370. A pinger locator is on the way to search for the missing flight. That's good, right?

What is it? We're going to tell you what a pinger locator is. We're going to show you the ship that it's on and we'll be right alongside it. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: An Australian ship with a U.S. Navy pinger finder just left on its way to the search zone. It's been a very frustrating day at sea over 1,100 men and women are on planes and ships but they found no sign of the missing jet.

Now Will Ripley is on board "The Thunder" following that pinger locator -- Will.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Chris, Kate -- right now we're in a charter fishing boat following closely behind the Ocean Shield as it makes its way towards the Indian Ocean. It departed just few minutes ago, traveling about 15 knots. It will take about three days to reach the search zone about 1,100 miles from her.

On this ship is technology that may be our best and only hope in solving the mystery of Flight 370. There's that black box locator, a giant underwater microphone that they drag behind the ship and it listens for the fading pings from the data recorders inside the aircraft.

The problem is that microphone only has a one mile radius and it's heading to a search zone the size of Poland. There's also a drone on board that can go under water and map out debris that's lying on the ocean surface. But without a clear idea of where the wreckage might be, without any confirmed sightings of debris as of now, we're sending this ship out with technology that we really can't utilize properly.

The hope is that in the coming days as the Ocean Shield heads towards the search zone the searchers will be able to find some sort of evidence that brings us closer to where Flight 370 disappeared and then this technology can truly be put to use -- Chris, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Will -- thank you very much for that. As he said it's so important they have to refine the search area, have to get a better idea of where this is before they can send that high-tech equipment. That pinger locator should get there we're told, get to the site by Thursday.

So how does the high-tech device actually work? Many are asking this. Let's bring in Indra Petersons who has gotten a better look at how it all works.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Right. Basically this is what they are trying to find. And every one keeps talking about the ping. We can actually show you that sound right now. You can kind of hear what they are looking for as they're scanning the ocean. Not sure we can give you that sound or that ping.

But let's talk about it. This is actually the commercial aircraft is looking for this pinger -- the commercial aircraft pinger. It actually emits the sound about every second. This is what they are looking for. That boat is going to slowly tow about -- maybe about three to four knots or so, about one to five knots. And it's going to bring up like a microphone off the tail end of this. So that's what we're going to be looking for every second. Whether or not it even has that battery life to hear is going to be the concern. Assuming it does the next concern is the depth. We're talking about this only being able hearing up to a depth of about 20,000 feet.

Now we know in just the most recent days they've actually changed that search area so now we have that broken ridge as you go farther to the north. What does that mean? That means some of the areas in this broken ridge have a depth farther than that 20,000 feet. So there will be some blind spots here that even that craft will not be able to hear as it does make its way through. As you can see, some of that depth is going about 21,000 feet.

So that's one of the difficulties they're going to be having as they continue to broaden this search area. Now what are we also looking at? Satellites. A lot of people are saying we have satellites, why can't we just find this stuff, right? Well, keep in mind we have two kinds of satellites. We have a polar orbit satellite that is close to the earth and you also have another one that's way up there. I mean way farther.

What you do know much closer to the earth the resolution is better -- right. So why don't we just use the one that closer to earth. Let me show you the why. The one that's closer to the earth rotates around the poles. It goes around and round so with that it only looks at one spot on the earth twice a day, only one of those being in the daylight.

Back to the drawing board -- right, you can obviously see the gaps you're looking at there. We have the go satellite. This is way satellite further up so the resolution is not as high but, of course, you can start to get that information about anywhere 15 minutes to two to three hours. What they need to do is they need to make that resolution stronger to be able to see something. But even with that it may still be way too far up to be able to find any of that information.

And that is a concern they're talking about. They keep saying, why does it take four days to sometimes analyze this data why can't we see anything? There you go. The satellite that has a higher resolution may only pass that path that could potentially have that debris one time a day, the other one may be just too high to be able to see something that small. That's the concern, guys.

BOLDUAN: When you weigh it out that way, you see all the challenges they are up against.

CUOMO: I know. The more you learn about this seems like it is are almost the perfect situation to make the search so difficult.

BOLDUAN: To not be able to find those.

CUOMO: And we'll keep following it. That was very helpful, though. Thank you for that Indra. Appreciate it.

BOLDUAN: Thanks Indra. CUOMO: Coming up a little girl does a very brave thing and gets punished for it. Will that stand? Not if "The Good Stuff" has anything to say about it. Stay tuned.


CUOMO: My friend we bring you "The Good Stuff".

Why do schools sometimes just not get it? Case in point: Colorado girl does such a very brave thing. Her name is 9-year-old Kamryn Renfro. What does she do? She shaves her head to support her best friend who is battling a rare form of childhood cancer. We love this.

For her act of kindness she gets suspended from school. Why? Turns out it is a violation of the dress code. Are you kidding me? Kamryn's mother understandably shocked.


JAMIE RENFRO, MOTHER OF KAMRYN RENFRO: We knew that we would suffer a little bit of, from the school just as far as trying to get it changed and things like that. I had no idea it was going to spiral out of control like it had.


CUOMO: So the school board catches wind of this (inaudible) mockery and the suspension is, of course, of course, not only to invite her back but they hold a special vote to praise her. Kamryn says she did not need that to know that she had done the right thing.


KAMRYN RENFRO, SHAVED HEAD FOR FRIEND WITH CANCER: She was like really excited and she was like jumping up and down that I did it.


CUOMO: Nine years old already knows better than the teachers in her own school. Kamryn's -- the Facebook message that she puts out there -- Kamryn's mother offered her thanks writing, "Now that we've seen how much two little girls can change the world and touch so many hearts we're asking for all of this attention to embrace awareness of childhood cancer."

And we'll help you do that by putting this story out there as "The Good Stuff".

Silver lining -- the school bungling this the way they did actually helped to get more attention.

BOLDUAN: That's right. The silver lining is they did get it right eventually.

CUOMO: I mean are you kidding me?

PEREIRA: We can only all act like a kid sometimes.

CUOMO: Right? Out of the mouths of babes -- very good stuff. It's good to be back with all of you.


CUOMO: Time for the news with Ms. Carol Costello.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN HOST: Thanks so much. Have a great day.

"NEWSROOM" starts now.