While Australia’s prime minister once declared that searchers were “very confident” that the four pings detected in the Indian Ocean came from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370’s black boxes, as the search of the surrounding area concluded on Wednesday, officials admitted they were probably wrong. Michael Dean, the Navy’s deputy director of ocean engineering, said most countries are now in agreement that the electronic signals came from some other source. “Our best theory at this point is that (the pings were) likely some sound produced by the ship … or within the electronics of the Towed Pinger Locator,” Dean told CNN. “Always your fear any time you put electronic equipment in the water is that if any water gets in and grounds or shorts something out, that you could start producing sound.”
A U.S. Navy spokesman called Dean’s statement too “speculative and premature,” but suggested he may be right. “I am not saying that what Michael Dean said was inaccurate,” the spokesman said, “but what we are saying is that it is not his place to say it.”
The strongest evidence that the sounds didn’t come from the black boxes is the searchers’ failure to pick up any sign of the missing plane after weeks of scouring the area. The U.S. Navy’s Bluefin 21 has completed its underwater scan, and the Australian agency coordinating the search announced on Wednesday that “the area can now be discounted as the final resting place of MH370.”
Australian Transport Minister Warren Truss defended the plan to focus in on the area, saying they were following “the best information available at the time,” which is “all you can do in circumstances like this.” He added that officials are “still very confident that the resting place of the aircraft is in the southern ocean and along” the flight path indicated by satellite data.