Scientists are hopeful that they can pinpoint the crash site of flight MH370, which vanished in 2014, by studying barnacles.
Scientists Figured Out What Might Have Happened To Flight MH370 By Analyzing Barnacle Shells
On March 8, 2014, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 departed from Kuala Lumpur International Airport en route to Beijing, China. Approximately 38 minutes after take-off, the plane made its final communication while flying over the South China Sea. Just 16 minutes later, radar data indicated a significant deviation from its intended course.
As the aircraft had initially been flying north, it unexpectedly changed direction to the west, and the last primary radar contact occurred an hour later.
Subsequently, the plane disappeared, with all 239 people on board presumed dead and the crash site of the aircraft remained undiscovered. Nevertheless, some pieces of debris have been located since then.
The initial fragment of debris from flight MH370 was the aircraft's flaperon, a component of the wing. It was discovered on a beach on Réunion Island approximately 16 months after the plane went missing.
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Réunion is located off the east coast of Madagascar which likely means that the debris had likely travelled across most of the Indian Ocean to wash up on the beach.
Now, scientists believe they could have a way to determine the point of origin for the piece of debris, and that's by analysing the barnacles it was encrusted with.
According to Gregory Herbet, a marine ecologist at the University of South Florida, the barnacles' size suggests that they attached to the debris more than a year before it eventually washed ashore.
He believes that by analyzing the geochemistry of the barnacle shells covering the flaperon, they could obtain a more precise understanding of its origin.
The science coming into it is that barnacle shells grow differently depending on what temperature the water they're in.
Every layer of the barnacle shell can provide scientists with information about the specific water conditions the barnacle encountered throughout its growth. This means that if they have a rough estimate of how long the barnacles were attached, they can analyze the shells to gain a more precise understanding of the geographical locations they had been exposed to.
Scientists and researchers believe that the largest barnacles attached to the debris shortly after the plane's disappearance. Therefore, if the barnacle shells can offer insights into the water temperature during their formation, it could significantly reduce the search area for the plane's origin.
As reported by National Geographic, scientists are confident that they can now trace a barnacle's historical water temperature with remarkable precision, narrowing it down to within 0.1 degrees Celsius of its actual temperature.
This level of precision represents a significant improvement compared to the earlier estimates when the flaperon was initially discovered, as scientists could only approximate the water temperature within a margin of two degrees.
If this works then they could theoretically track the path taken by the barnacles and by extension the debris they were latched onto, arriving at the area where flight MH370 went down.
The team hopes that the new approach could help resume the search for the plane, and maybe even bring closure to the families of those on board.