New Zealand plane searches for Malaysian Airl
New Zealand plane searches for Malaysian AirlReuters

A potential breakthrough was made Saturday as a Chinese ship picked up pulse signals from under the Indian Ocean, potentially from the flight recorder of Malaysian Airlines flight 370, the plane that mysteriously went missing on March 8 with its 239 passengers.

The 90-second string of pings was reportedly at a frequency of 37.5kHz, the same used by flight recorders.

Following the discovery by the Chinese ship, the Haixun 01, the search has intensified to track down the plane's black box before it runs out of batteries, reports BBCAfter 30 days the black box's batteries are expected to run out of juice; Saturday marks 29 days since the plane disappeared for as yet unknown reasons.

Angus Houston, the chief coordinator of Australia's Joint Agency Coordination Center, remarked on the discovery Saturday, saying "the characteristics reported are consistent with the aircraft black box." Houston added that several white objects were found Saturday at a distance of 56 miles from the site.

"However, there is no confirmation at this stage that the signals and the objects are related to the missing aircraft," concluded Houston, adding that the Royal Australian Air Force was considering deploying aircraft to sweep the area of the signals.

Haixun 01's discovery was made suddenly, at a location of 25 degrees south latitude and 101 degrees east longitude.

"Identitcal" to standard beacon frequency

According to Anish Patel, president of Dukane Seacom which manufacturers locator beacons, the discovered signal "is the standard beacon frequency" for the plane's data recorder. "They're identical," he told CNN.

The 37.5kHz frequency was chosen "to give that standout quality that does not get interfered with by the background noise that readily occurs in the ocean." However, Patel said "I'd like to see some additional assets on site quickly -- maybe some sonobuoys," referring to a sonar system dropped into the water.

The new find comes the same day that Hishammuddin Hussein, Malaysia's acting transportation minister, announced three committees were being formed to organize the search. One is to deal with families of the passengers, another to arrange the investigation team, and a third to handle the deployment of assets.

Speculations around causes of disappearance abound

Previous finds of objects floating in the ocean were put into question after officials said last Sunday they may not be connected to the flight.

Some theories about the mysterious disappearance include suspicions regarding co-pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah, considered a "fanatical" supporter of Malaysian Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who was sentenced to five years in jail for on a sodomy charge less than a day before the flight disappeared.

Other theories point the finger at two Iranian nationals who boarded the plane on false European passports. A more outlandish theory was proposed by American commentator Dr. Kevin Barrett, who told state-owned Iranian Press TV that he thought Israel was behind the disappearance.