A selection of tabloids are reporting on the exploits of someone who reckons they know where missing passenger jet MH370 has ended up. Here’s the thing: When a sole individual claims to have cracked a case that has left countless authorities and experts all over the world utterly stumped, they probably haven’t cracked the case.
The person, in this case, is a video producer from the UK. He thinks he’s seen the outline of the missing jet on Google Maps. He reckons that the plane landed in Cambodia within a mountainous area west of Phnom Penh, and he’s heading there himself to check on foot.
So, a few things here. Outlines of objects aren’t what they seem, particularly when viewed from satellite imagery. Conspiracy theorists often see outlines of plenty of complex things on Mars and under Earth’s oceans, but they are literally never what they appear to be. Far from being advanced structures built by aliens, they are instead just piles of rocks partly covered in shadows.
The outline in question, which you can see in the images here courtesy of Google Earth, might look like a plane, sure. It’s impossible, however, that such a plane could land on the treetops of the wilderness of Cambodia and just sit there completely intact. Make no mistake: It would have crashed and fragmented into thousands of pieces.
There's also, of course, the chance that the image is fake. It wouldn't be difficult to add in a pixelated plane to an already blurry satellite image in order to drum up attention. At the same time, people have claimed to have spotted MH370 from Google Maps/Earth before. Guess what? They were mistaken.
The outline could perhaps be of a real plane of some sort, but one that was snapped by satellite imaging equipment as it flew over Cambodia.
It appears that, since this claim, an aviation consultant and a local businessman have rented a helicopter to scour the area themselves. They found nothing.
There is plenty of mystery surrounding the 2014 disappearance of the flight, simply because why it went missing and where it went are unknown. From private companies, like the US-based Ocean Infinity, to national governments, such as Australia’s, there has been a near-continual search for the missing plane ever since it was declared missing.
Regardless, it is thought that MH370 crashed into the southern Indian Ocean, which makes finding it a big ask. Indeed, radar and satellite data clearly indicate that the plane, flying from Malaysia to China, suddenly turned away from its designated route and flew south into the ocean, whereupon it disappeared from flight radars.
The Indian Ocean crash site was in fact the leading hypothesis long before some wreckage was found on the remote Reunion Island in 2015, something that investigators thought was highly likely to have belonged to the missing aircraft.
Carried there by persistent oceanic currents, it was thought that it might help experts pin down the original crash site. Sadly, three years on, that doesn’t appear to be the case.
As it happens, it’s probably not the best idea to indulge wannabe detectives in their search for the plane.
As noted by the Guardian, family members of the 239 people on board the doomed aircraft have pleaded with the newly elected Malaysian administration to continue the previous administration’s work. The event, clearly, was deeply painful to many, and any semblance of hope may be better than nothing to some.
False hope isn’t a good thing, though. Amplifying someone’s “theory” may produce just that, and create more pain for the families of the dead.
MH370 is still missing.