The next phase of the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 has begun in a bleak stretch of the Indian Ocean, more than six months after the passenger vet mysteriously vanished.
On Monday, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) announced that the Malaysian-contracted GO Phoenix vessel had arrived to begin its underwater search, scanning the ocean floor for the plane.
According to CNN, the search has reportedly been on hold for four months so crews could map the seabed in the search zone, about 1,800km west of Australia.
Because very little is known concerning the ocean floor in that area, a bathymetric survey to map the seabed was considered vital before an underwater search could start.
The disappearance of the MH370 is perhaps one of the greatest mysteries of today. On March 8, air traffic controllers in Subang, outside Kuala Lumpur, lost contact with Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, a Boeing 777-200ER, over the sea between Malaysia and Vietnam.
Since then, not a trace of the passenger jet has been found, despite a thorough search of the South China Sea, the south of Vietnam and the Malaysian peninsula by planes and ships from 14 countries.
However, through careful analysis of aircraft performance, cross-referenced with data from the Immarsat "handshakes," authorities believe that the plane diverted south. Now, resources have been focused on a portion of the Indian Ocean, around 2000 km (1242 miles) off the west coast of Australia, often called the "seventh arc."
Two other ships being provided by Dutch contractor Fugro are expected to join the GO Phoenix later this month. According to BBC, the ships will be dragging sonar devices called towfish through the water about 100 metres above the seabed to hunt for the wreckage.
The towfish are also equipped with sensors that can detect the presence of jet fuel, and are expected to be able to cope with the depths of the search zone, which is 6.5km deep in places.
Martin Dolan, chief commissioner of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation they are, "Cautious because of all the technical and other challenges we've got, but optimistic because we're confident in the analysis."
"But it's just a very big area that we're looking at," he continued.
The search has been spearheaded by Malaysia and Australia, who have each contributed approximately $60million towards the mission.
Family members of the vanished passengers welcome the news, saying they "desperately need answers."
Irene Burrows, whose son and daughter-in-law were on the flight, said in an Associated Press report: We're in limbo".
"It will be good to know where it is - I think that's what is important to all the family."