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CNN SPECIAL REPORTS
Updates in the Search for Flight 370; Press Conference from Australia
Aired April 13, 2014 - 23:59 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DAVID JOURDAN, FOUNDER, PRESIDENT, NAUTICOS: They were at similar depths, once you get down deeper than 10,000 feet, it's all deep. The titanic, of course, no one searched for it for many years because there was no technology able to do that. Once doctor Ballard and the U.S. Navy decided they want to try to find the titanic, there was certainly many, many months of research first before they committed the resources to actually look at the sea floor and then it took two expeditions in two different years. And each of those expeditions were a couple of months long.
So it depends on when you want to start the clock. You can call it months or you can call it years, but it certainly took quite a long time and that's typical. Once you decide that you're going to commit the resources to do a deep sea search, which costs $50,000 a day, you really want to be prepared. So you may spend months or even longer making sure that you're going to look in the right place. And then it will take months of time, maybe on different expeditions, separated by addition anytime before you can expect any reward.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. And just for other searches that are at similar depth, and for other airline disasters, can you give us some idea of the ones you've been involved in, how long it usually takes to find? I would imagine, obviously since titanic was found, the technology has improved. It hasn't been that long ago. It's improved some. But still, this is a vast search area, looking for an airplane. And can you give us an idea of how long it takes to do this?
JOURDAN: well, you have -- in order to find something, you have to look where it is, obviously, and you have to be able to see it. And seeing it, in our terms, is hearing it really with sonar, and you are right. Technology hasn't changed a great deal, although there is a new development that could be adventurous to your called synthetic aperture sonar which gives a tremendous improvement in resolution.
Right now there's one called a SAS, a process that is a toad system and Boeing is currently integrating a SAS in an autonomous system. And this sort of thing could help improved our ability to search the sea floor and do a greater rate.
Right now, we can cover maybe a square mile per hour. And the areas that they're looking for out now are many thousands of square miles. So if we can't reduce it beyond any smaller than that for this pinger data, it will simply take a long time. LEMON: Yes. I want everyone to stand by. The news conference is supposed to happen at any moment now. Live now in the room and we have been watching these knew conferences happen over the evenings here for the past couple of weeks. Of course, this has been going on for five weeks now. This is day 38 going on day 39 as a matter of fact. And still no sign of missing flight 370. And again, a news conference about to begin at the top of the hour.
My guest joins me now here on CNN. And we're talking about what to expect at that news conference. And really what to expect in the next phase of this search. And I want to go back now to Geoffrey Thomas who is in Perth where they're holding that press conference.
So Geoffrey, just word of a press conference, you also got word that nothing had been heard, nothing of the pingers had been heard, no acoustic event or audio event in five days. And now this, we don't know what Angus Houston, the man who is in-charge of the search, is going to say.
GEOFFREY THOMAS, EDITOR IN-CHIEF, AIRLINERATINGS.COM: Look, indeed, Don. And it may well be, they haven't mentioned debris. It might well be they picked up some debris that he's going to talk about. It might well be he's going to talk about HMS Echo, about some sort of echo return.
Certainly, there's been no more pings. But they're very tight lipped about this one. And I think it will be significant because Angus Houston would not hold a press conference unless it was of some significance. So, I'm afraid we're going to have to hold tight on this one, Don.
And Mary Schiavo, you know that we have been -- we must remember there were 239 people onboard, 239 families. And each time there is some word of a news conference or some announcement, they are watching very closely. And I would imagine that is why Angus Houston chooses his moments in order to get information like this.
MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Absolutely. And I heard from some of the families and they rely on the news at this point almost entirely because the end person briefings have ended. They have been given notice when t tune for a series of press conferences, but they now have to get the news to a large extent like everyone else. So, it's very, very important to them.
LEMON: OK, Mary. And here's Angus Houston. Let's listen.
(BEGIN LIVE FEED)
ANGUS HOUSTON, SARCH COORDINATOR: Commodore Peter Leavy who is the task force commander of all the defense asst that are out there involve in a search and the strain defense assets involved in the search for MH 370.
On my right, we have the constable from the maritime safety authority. We have Bob Armstrong from ATSB, the Australian transportation safety bureau.
I would like to update you on the latest developments regarding search for MH 370. As you're aware, there have been no confirmed signal detections since last Tuesday night Perth time. Today is day 38 of the search. The guaranteed shelf life of the batteries on the aircraft black boxes is 30 days.
Despite the lack of further detections, the four signals previously acquired taken together constitute the most promising lead we have in the search for MH 370. We need to pursue this lead as far as possible. Analysis of the four signals has allowed the provisional definition of a reduced and manageable search area on the ocean floor.
The experts have therefore determined the Australian defense vessel, Ocean Shield, will cease searching with the toad pinger locator later today. And deploy the autonomous underwater vehicle, Bluefin-21 as soon as possible. The Bluefin-21 is equipped with side scan sonar. Once deployed, it will begin searching the sea floor in the vicinity of the detected signals.
Each mission conducted by the Bluefin-21 will take a minimum of 24 hours to complete. It will take the autonomous underwater vehicle two hours to get to the bottom of the ocean. It will then be on task for 16 hours. It will then take two hours to return to the surface and four hours to down load and analyze the data collected. The first mission will see Bluefin-21 cover an area of approximately five kilometers by eight kilometers, an area of 40-square kilometers.
The autonomous underwater vehicle inside scan sonar mode transmits an active parts which produces a high resolution, three dimensional map of the sea floor. The deployment of the autonomous underwater vehicle has the potential to take us a further step towards visual identification since it offers a possible opportunity to detect debris from the aircraft on the ocean floor.
As I have said before, aircraft wreckage needs to be visually identified before we can say with certainty that this is the final resting place of MH-370. I would caution you against raising hopes that the deployment of the autonomous underwater vehicle will result in the detection of the aircraft wreckage, it may not. However, this is the best lead we have and must be pursued vigorously. Again, I emphasize that this will be a slow and painstaking process.
In another development, I can report Ocean Shield detected an oil slick yesterday evening in her current search area. A sample of about two liters has been collected and it will be a number of days before it can be landed ashore and conclusively tested.
I stress the source of the oil is yet to be determined but the oil slick is approximately 5,500 meters downwind from the detection picked up by the towed pinger locator on the Ocean Shield..
A few words about today's search. Up to 11 military aircraft, one civil aircraft, and 15 ships will assist in today's search. HMS Echo is working in the areas supporting Ocean Shield providing oceanographic support and analysis. The planned visual search area is about 47,644 square kilometers. The center of the search area lies approximately 2,200 kilometers northwest of Perth.
The air and surface search for flight and material will be completed in the next two to three days in the area where the aircraft most likely entered the water. The chances of any floating material being recovered have greatly diminished and it will be appropriate to consult with Australia's partners to decide the way ahead later this week.
The weather forecast for today is southeasterly winds with possible showers and sea swells about to 1.5 meters and visibility of three to five kilometers.
I'm now happy to take your questions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Aside from the Bluefin-21, will you be deploying any other underwater vehicles or is that the only asset that you're going to use right now?
HOUSTON: That's the only asset that is available now and I would stress again, the capability required is to be able to go down to 4,500 meters and this vehicle is limited once the water gets deeper than that. So we would have to get another vehicle if the water were to be deeper still. But at the moment, it looks like the Bluefin-21 is more than adequate for the task. Yes?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Do you know how large this search area is that you have to cover with the Bluefin-21? At first you said 40 square kill meters.
HOUSTON: Well, the search area, because we have one vehicle and we go mission from mission to mission, we will adapt the search area, depending on what we find on the bottom of the ocean. So over time, each time the vehicle goes down, it will have a defined search area.
Now, that search area is a broader search area and is obviously a little larger than that but what we do is we start from the best data and we work out wards from there. And it's really up to the people on the spot to determine where the best area is to go next. It's sort of different from, you know, when you've got a large number of aircraft, a large number of ships, you find a large area to search. And in this particular case, we've got four detections. We start where we think the best location is. That's the start of the search and we go out wards from there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: We heard yesterday it was 40 by 50 kilometers. Do you just do blocks in that -- within that area?
HOUSTON: Well, it just depends on what we find on the ocean floor. And, you know, I think it's very important to give flexibility to the people who are doing the work. They are the experts and they will determine where they need to go next. And obviously that sort of search area you sort of indicated, if we don't find anything, we go further out and look a little further afield.
And at the moment, I think the first mission will be quite an intense search in the most likely spot that has been determined from the analysis that has been done thus far. Of course, we get a lot more data from the mission. That provides further information to further define where we go next.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Are you telling us that you believe that the battery in the data recorder is now flat and can you give us an idea, the Bluefin is a long shot?
HOUSTON: Well, I would say that day 38, if you remember when we had a briefing it seems like a long time ago now, but we said 30 days shelf life and then possibly out to 40 days and then the batteries will almost certainly be totally expired. We haven't had a single detection in six days. So I guess it's time to go underwater.
Our concept always was, that if we did get an area that we can identify from an acoustic search, that eventually we would go underwater. That's why the Ocean Shield is carrying the towed pinger that was to get the initial detections and then to use the autonomous underwater vehicle to go down and investigate what might have happened. Now, where the transmission might be coming from.
Now, you might recall that one of those transmissions that was analyzed by the Australian joint agency for acoustics, a naval agency that works with acoustics all the time, a lot of expertise, they have analyzed and reanalyzed and indeed all of the stuff that we've been analyzing has been analyzed again and again.
And on the latest advice from them, the original assessment that the signal that was received essentially had the characteristics of a manmade signal that was very similar to what you might expect from a black box detector. So I think this is -- this is something that must be investigated. It's the best lead we've got after 38 days of searching and I guess it's as it is.
And I would not term it a long shot. I term it as somebody who has been in search and rescue operations a lot over the years. I would determine it as a promising lead that needs to be prosecuted until we can either confirm or discount and then if we confirm, great. If we discount, then we decide where we're going to go next. And that's the way it's done. Believe me, you know, that's the business of search and rediscovery, search and rescue. This gentleman here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Up in the area, is that based on the signal received or is it based on other information and how many days will it take for Bluefin-21 to cover this area?
HOUSTON: Well, I go back to where we were a couple of weeks ago. This underwater search area was quite a large underwater search area was determined on the basis of the exchanges between the satellite, the Inmarsat satellite and the aircraft, the handshakes. And you might remember, we had the seventh ping. This area that we're in is under where the seventh ping occurred.
Now, after that analysis was done, that enabled the deployment of Ocean Shield with the pinger, pinger locator and she went into that area and she received transmissions from the deep. That is the basis, the four transmissions taken together are the basis for the underwater search area. OK?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: What more do we know about the terrain down there? Have we learned, is there silt? Is it mountainous? Is it flat? What do we know about this area?
HOUSTON: Well, I think this is an area that is new to man. We obviously have a great asset in the oceanographic vessel, HMS Echo. That's the start of the oceanographic that can assist in the mapping of the bottom there. But essentially on the sort of symmetry that I've seen, it's not sharply mountainous or anything. It's more flat and almost rolling but we understand from other work that was done some years ago that that part of the Indian Ocean has a lot of silt on the bottom. And if we have silt on the bottom, that can be quite layered, quite deep, and that will complicate how things are on the bottom.
And of course, again, with the autonomous vehicle going down, we're going to gather more information about the characteristics of the search area we're dealing with and that's why we're not defining this area, that area, or so on. We're actually gathering information about the search environment all the time and that's factored into the analysis that the subject matter makes when they determine where to go next.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Excuse me.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: What does the oil slick (INAUDIBLE).
HOUSTON: Well, it's a lead. This is what the (INAUDIBLE) is all about. You find something, you then basically investigate it. We've got an oil slick and we'll investigate it. First of all, we test it. We've got the position located. It's very close to where the transmissions are coming from. And we'll investigate it and that will take a little bit of time, given that we're in the middle of the Indian Ocean and we can't do the analysis of the slick out at sea.
We don't think it's from the ships. So where is it from? What is it and so on? So, it's another lead to pursue and something that must be investigated until we either confirm or discount it. And exactly the same way that we've handled the vast amount of material that's been gathered during the visual search. We looked at it. We have discounted all of it thus far. Yes?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Do you find that there is anything else to update?
HOUSTON: Well, the area we're searching, we know that it is probably -- it's around 4,500 meters. In fact, from the imagery I've seen most of the search is around 4,500 for the operation of the vehicle. But I must stress, it is at the limit of its capability as soon as it gets to 4,500 meters. It can't go any deeper than that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE). HOUSTON: Yes. And essentially, there are vehicles that can go a lot deeper than that. They usually are much larger vehicles that do recovery as well and obviously, those possibilities will be looked at. Well, they are being looked at as we speak. But a lot will depend on the outcome of what we find when we go down and take a look. Yes?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Can you clarify some of the time frame that we're talking about? You said the towed pinger locator will stop searching or when exactly would that be completed? Today? Tomorrow?
HOUSTON: Well, the first thing is that we've got the Bluefin-21 and the towed pinger locator hosted on the same ship, Ocean Shield. They cannot be operated simultaneously. So the commander on the spot had to decide which device he was going to use in the first instance. And clearly, because there was still a possibility of picking out transmissions, even though we got past the 30-day point. We got those transmissions probably seems like ten days ago now. And we wanted to try and get more transmissions.
Now, the fact that we haven't had more transmissions, well, that could be a number of things but one of the -- one of the more probable reasons for that is the batteries on whatever was transmitting have expired. So that's the first thing.
In terms of time frames, once we pull in the towed locator, pinger locator, the TPL, we're essentially going to have to bring it up on deck and it will probably not be used again because by the time we complete the autonomous underwater vehicle work, we're going to be into the day 42, 43, or whatever it is. And by then we would suggest to all of you that there would be no prospect of picking up an electronic signal. It would be quite extraordinary if we did.
In terms of the time frame in the deployment of the underwater vehicle, it has a 24-hour cycle so we anticipate deploying it this evening. It will then be recovered and with the collection of data, analysis, and so on, it will be ready to be deployed, if everything goes according to plan, exactly 24 hours after the first deployment and so on.
So it's a 24-hour cycle. It goes down, you don't get any indication of how things are going while it's deployed. You have to wait to recover it before you can get the download of the data that it has picked up. Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Hi. I'm wondering at this point the search has been going on, do you have any estimate of how much this is costing and also is it possible -- this has been going on for a long time. Are you in this for the long haul? Could it be a couple of months.
HOUSTON: Well, it's very expensive. All of the countries that are contributing to this are running up big costs and I think the world community should be very appreciative to those countries for their contribution. To what I would say is one of the largest search and rescue and recovery missions that I've seen in my lifetime. But just to put a bit of realism into it, the model that we tend to use in Air France accident that happened about five years ago, and the last known position of the aircraft that was lost and this came from ACARS data was 6.5 nautical miles from where the wreckage was finally found two years after the aircraft was lost. So I just say that because I think it's important to put it in context that the environment down there is incredibly demanding.
Now, that wreckage was found at 3,000 meter depth. We're talking about operating down closer 4,500 meters and I think that gives you some idea of how challenging this should be. And that's why I say, we've got to be realistic about this. It may be very difficult to find something and you don't know how good any lead is until you get your eyes on the wreckage.
And, you know, in a different environment, the mountains of the United States, I used to go searching in the middle of winter. We got a lot of leads. It was up to us to pursue all of the leads. But many of those leads took us down a blind alley. So we've got to be very realistic.
We've got a good lead. The most promising lead that we've had through the entire search and we've just got to wait to see if the Bluefin-21 finds wreckage on the bottom of the ocean. And I would just say to everybody, don't be overoptimistic. Be realistic and let's hope, let's hope that that very long signal that we're receiving was actually coming from the black box because that would be a really good outcome but we can't confirm that until we lay our eyes on the vehicle.
I think I might call it. Just one more question.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE)
HOUSTON: Well, I think the prime minister said, while he was in China and one of the things that has been mentioned here is that prime minister was quite expansive in China and I would say I'm not surprised by that. He was in China where there is intense interest in the circumstances surrounding this search and rescue operation and he gave a fairly good summary of, you know, where we are at with the search.
But as he said, what's critical here is we've got to prosecute the most promising lead we've got, these transmissions. And we've got to find wreckage visually before we can finally say we have solved this mystery. OK? One last question. Yes?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: You mentioned this was the most promising lead. Other leads may lead to (INAUDIBLE). Are there any other leads other than this one?
HOUSTON: Well, one you've asked me about in the past, the one from Haixun 01, was a detection there and that has been analyzed and has been discounted as a credible transmission. So at the moment, this is really all we've got. We've got no visual, no visual objects. We have the -- the only thing we have left at this stage is the four transmissions. And an oil slick in the same vicinity. So we will investigate those to their conclusion and that's where we are.
Thank you very much. That's the only leads at the moment. Yes. And, of course, we are a long way after the disappearance of the aircraft. So thank you very much.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, sir.
HOUSTON: Thank you.
LEMON: All right. There you see the man in-charge of the search, Angus Houston -- hold on. Let's see what he has to say.
HOUSTON: On the operation of the underwater vehicle, Captain Matthews, Mark Matthews from the U.S. Navy has kindly made himself available for one-on-one interviews.
Thank you very much.
(END LIVE FEED)
LEMON: All right. So basically, the reporters who are in the room will be able to get personal interviews with some of the people involved in the search.
Lots of information coming out from this. I will introduce my panel and then go over it. Joining me now is Paul Ginsberg, Les Abend, David Jourdan, also with me Michael Holmes in Pert, Joe Johns in Kuala Lumpur and Brian Todd is with me on the phone.
OK. So let's go over some of this information and then discuss it. He said, 38 days -- or 39, depending on how you're counting here, no sound of a -- it is day 38 but it has been about five days since they heard anything that was an acoustic event here. He said the four signals are the most promising lead that they have, obviously.
He said the Ocean Shield will cease to use the towed pinger in that location. They will pull that towed pinger up and they will drop the Bluefin-21 with the side scan sonar into the water. That has a 24- hour cycle, he said. It takes about two hours to get down and it takes about 16 hours as it is going back and forth over the ocean like a lawn mower almost as if you are vacuuming your carpet in that way, going over every area. Two hours to return from surface. Four hours, he says, to download and analyze the information. He says it's going to go over an area about five kilometers by eight kilometers and that's about 40 square miles. First that's what it is going to do.
And then it says it can map the sea floor using 3D technology. And he warned us, he warned everyone, he said -- he's managing expectations here. He said this may not result in finding the wreckage but it is the best option yet.
Also of import here, Ocean Shield, according to Angus Houston, detected an oil slick. They collected two liters of that oil and they are analyzing it now. He said it's about 5500 meters downwind of where they heard those pingers, the pinger detections or the audio detections that they heard. Also, the HMS Echo is out assisting with the Ocean Shield. And then he define the search area.
Here is what I thought was interesting. And Michael Holmes, I don't know if you were listening. But he said the air and surface search will be concluded in the next couple of days or so. I think he said the next two days and that they would have to consult with everyone else involved to figure out how to proceed. Did I hear that correctly, Michael?
MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you did, Don. You know, as he pointed out, he said wreckage needs to be seen before there's any confirmation of the resting place. You know, those ships -- what you have is that smaller what he called a manageable area where the Ocean Shield and the HMS Echo are doing, as you said, a little moment ago, telling that the towed ping locator HMS Echo doing the sonar work.
But the rest of those ships are like 400 miles further to the west and that's because of the storms and the movements of the ocean, that's where they detected that it would be the best chance for any floating wreckage to have moved since the suspected impact area.
Now, obviously they have found nothing. Six weeks into this, we are on the sixth weeks, found absolutely nothing. And so, I imagine from what he's saying there, they have decided they are not going to find anything. There was that one big storm, a cyclone, a hurricane in the area and some experts suggested it was so strong and the waves so big that pretty much anything that was floating might have been pushed to the bottom or dispersed so widely, they are not going to find it in a structured search.
So, it sounds like they are calling off that aspect and they are going to go underwater. As Angus Houston said, it s time to go underwater. And they are going to have to look up like it. But again, as we've been saying over recent days, Don, it is a painstaking process. They are not going to put that thing down and come up with something tomorrow. This could be months and months and months. It's a huge area.
LEMON: Absolutely. And what he said was, which caught my attention, he said the wreckage detection has been greatly diminished by the weather and also by the time because one would have thought by now they may have found some wreckage but because of the weather conditions and because of the time, the wreckage detection is greatly diminished. Air and surface search will be concluded within the next two days or so and they are going to have to consult with everyone involved to see how to proceed next. I think that's a huge development, David Jourdan.
JOURDAN: And I think he did a wonderful job of characterizing the situation. And I don't think he exaggerated the difficult. One thing that he struck me that said is this area is unknown to man and by that he means, there is no data. We don't even know what the depth even are in detail. We know generally. But there can be ridge systems, mountain ranges that have been never detected.
And so, to send an autonomous vehicle down near the bottom and start mapping in that area can be actually quite risky. So I think they are going to be very cautious in their initial deployments and they may be well to use their oceanographic vessel to pre-scan the area just to get an idea of how deep it is and what the terrain is like.
So these steps need to be taken. We may not have anything from the autonomous vehicle, from the Bluefin for many days and then we'll just be beginning.
LEMON: Yes. The breaking news here on CNN, the man in charge of the search, Angus Houston in Perth, Australia, holding a news conference with some new developments saying what they found possible debris from the plane. That debris, if it is, would be in the form of an oil slick. They are analyzing that.
Also, managing expectations and talking about the next phase of this search. It is moving from an air search now to an underwater search and underwater that he says has not been mapped by man.
This is unexplored territory that we're going into. More with our panel right after this.
LEMON: The man in charge of the multinational search for flight 370 holding a press conference just a short time ago -- ending just a short time ago, giving us some really pertinent information for the search of flight 370.
Joining me now to discuss is Paul Ginsberg, Les Abend, David Jourdan, also joining me Michael Holmes in Perth, Joe Johns in Kuala Lumpur and Brian Todd on the phone.
Brian, I want to get to you to talk about this Bluefin-21, the next phase of the search. You have visited the folks who are in-charge of that technology and of Bluefin-21. And what do they tell you about searching the ocean floor with this particular apparatus?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via phone): They bought it from the company Bluefin which made it and what they've told us about this is that it has a lot of high-tech capability, that it's multidimensional, it can go down to about the depth of the ocean floor is in that area, about 14,700-plus feet down. It can make it down to that depth. It does side scan sonar and also can take high-resolution pictures and can take a full mosaic of the ocean floor at those depths. It can rove around. It essentially acts like an underwater drone. It is remotely operated. It can go around and take high-resolution pictures as well as taking a side scan sonar image of the ocean floor at these depths.
And I think basically, what you heard Angus Houston say is that this the last hope of trying to find and putting the image of what is down there. The towed pinger locator has pretty much done all that it can do. They haven't detected those pings for several days. This is the next logical step and this is what they are doing with it and this does have a lot of good capability but, you know, this is something that they've got to use at this point and it looks like they are about to deploy it in the coming hours. LEMON: Yes. And Brian, you know, he wanted to manage expectations with this, talking about the depths here and also talking about flight 447 where he said they used every resource that was available to them at the time, even some of the technology that they are using now, like the side sonar, side scanner sonar and other submersibles and it took them two and a half years to find it and they sort of knew the area where they were looking.
TODD: That's right. They had a point to start with Air France 447. They recovered a little bit of wreckage. They had more clues essentially to work within that search. And remember, in that search, the towed pinger locator was also used and did not find the black box. It went right over it and didn't find it.
Now, officials at Phoenix International say that's because the pinger became separated from the black box and they had become damaged but they did use also something in that search similar to the Bluefin-21 and it wasn't exactly like this one. But it was very similar and they used that and used remotely operated vehicles to go down and recover and find some of the wreckage. So, some of the very similar technology is being used here, Don, and they are taking the best shot they have with this particular vehicle.
LEMON: Michael Holmes?
HOLMES: Yes. Don, one thing that is interesting, and you raise this point and it's incredibly important, and that's how little we know about the ocean floor there. now, if the plane isn't in big pieces, if you like, on the ground, if it crashed and that flight data recorder separated from the plane, as they often do in a crash, and that data recorder plunged to the bottom of the sea there, what also is suspected down there, it could be as much as 20 meters of silt.
Now, if that box has gone down there and buried itself how many feet down, we don't know, in the silt and all you've got are the four pings to work on, can you imagine going down there and basically searching around in the dark, looking for a box this big that could be meters under the silt, no matter what sort of narrowed area we've got, it's still a massive area and when they get to any kind of recovery, attempt to go down there and try to dig around by simply for that box, they might not ever find it. That's certainly a consideration and ties into our lack of knowledge about the ocean floor. I think one person quoted earlier and we know more about the surface of a moon than that part of the ocean floor.
LEMON: Absolutely. Paul Ginsberg, you know, as we have been sitting here talking about this and we heard about the four pings and a press conference just like this at a late hour with Angus Houston and you said, I think that this is -- they may have been hearing the last gasps of those pingers of the batteries and the batteries on those black boxes are going, it appears you were absolutely right. They were lucky in the beginning but, you know, he is optimistic. This is a setback if they have not found those black boxes or better located them.
PAUL GINSBERG, FORENSIC AUDIO EXPERT: That's right. now, I will say that Angus Houston is very conservative. He's measured and he's got great credibility. Unlike what we've seen from the Malaysian side where they were giving us pieces to a jigsaw puzzle one day at a time and taking some back. When he has something to say it is factual.
I did find it interesting, however, that he had a lot of four hours to the downloading and the analysis of 16 hours of data. That's -- that's calling it pretty tight, I would think, especially when you have multiple echoes and so on as we've seen from the demonstration.
LEMON: Yes. When we come right back, we're going to take you to Kuala Lumpur to hear about the families, how the families are watching these press conferences and their reactions. Our Joe Johns, coming up.
LEMON: New information on the search for missing flight 370 just being given by the man in charge of this multinational search in Perth, Australia.
Joining me now to talk about it is Paul Ginsberg, Les Abend, and David Jourdan. Also joining me from Perth is Michael Holmes and Joe Johns is in Kuala Lumpur. Brian Todd is on the phone for us.
JOE Johns to you, every single development. The families are watching very closely. And I would imagine they are watching this as well. Reaction?
JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: A lot of reaction, quite frankly. We here at CNN, of course, have been reaching out to the families, understanding the cultural sensibilities and also just understanding how difficult it is right now.
But there's not a lot for them to say, quite frankly. There are reports in the newspapers that some of the family members are actually getting e-mails now telling them when the next briefing is going to come. The next briefing comes and there's really not enough information to comment.
They don't want to do interviews, from what I can tell, at least, at this stage. And they are not the only ones. There are other entities reaching out to them, banks and so forth. We know of a law firm in town here and, Don, I think you and I exchanged e-mail about it that actually advertised to try to get people to come over and talk with them over the weekend and our information is not a single family member showed up.
So people aren't in the mood to talk right now. What they want is some evidence and information from the authorities and the location of debris from the plane, if it's out there and until they get that, it doesn't seem like we're going to get a lot more information from them, at least at this stage, Don.
LEMON: Yes, absolutely. Joe Johns, understood they are frustrated and probably warn out a bit and all they want is some solid information. You know, Joe Johns mentioned debris, David. Listen, this so no confirmation of debris but Angus Houston did mention an oil slick in the area of where they heard, you know, the possible pingers and he said they collected a couple of liters of it and they are analyzing it. What do you make of this? We have the Inmarsat data, we have the oil slick and we have a possible pinger -- hearing of the pinger. What do you make of this?
JOURDAN: As I said earlier, these -- any one of these problems involve a lot of different clues and usually these bits of information are very different from each other. A pinger data point is different than an oil slick is different than an Inmarsat signal and they all have different -- contribute different parts of the answer. So, certainly we'll be very curious to know if they can identify this oil as being possibly from an airplane. That will be nice to know.
One thing you mentioned in comparing the time it takes to do this would be the air France flight 447. I want to mention that there were actually three autonomous vehicles used in that search, three vehicles from Woods Hole. So, that triples your ability to search for things, too. So as Mr. Houston mentioned, there may be other assets brought in to play later on, especially if it turns out that they are deeper than the Bluefin can search.
Another point is, there was a mention of four hours to analyze the data. That actually is four hours to download the data and they will have all day to look at the data while the Bluefin is off on its next deployment. They have to recharge the batteries and that's what takes four hours. So this process is deliberate and time consuming.
LEMON: The air and surface search for flight 370 will be concluded within the next couple of days. Now the search will happen under the water. Does this mean that it is a scale-back? Let's discuss after the break.
LEMON: All right. Back now, I'm Don Lemon. The search for flight 370 continues and the man who is charge of the search called a press conference a short time ago saying that air and surface search will be concluded within the next couple of days and they are going to have to consult with everyone to see how to proceed next because the wreckage detection is greatly diminished because of weather and because of time.
Does this sound like a scale back to you, David Jourdan?
JOURDAN: I think they are really losing -- there won't be much valuable information at this point, even if they do find floating wreckage. It's been so long that it will be almost impossible to come up with an origin point to come up with an accuracy. So, I think it's a waste of resource at this point to continue to scour the ocean for this ever expanding imagine -- maybe possibly imaginary trail of debris. They may be at some point now if there was ever any on the surface to begin with. LEMON: I want to thank everybody for joining us. Les Abend and David Jourdan, Michael Holmes, Paul Ginsberg, Brian Todd that joins us on the phone as well. That concludes our coverage for now.
I'm Don Lemon in New York. Make sure you stay tune with CNN for continuing coverage.