Seabed Constructor, which has started looking for the missing plane, itself went missing for three days.
The ship from Norway that is searching for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 itself disappeared from tracking screens for three days after it mysteriously turned off its satellite monitoring system, with no explanation.
The US-based firm Ocean Infinity has been hired by the Malaysian government to continue the search for the missing plane, which vanished in March 2014. It hired the ship Seabed Constructor, which resumed the search on January 22.
But after just 10 days into the operation it switched off its Automatic Identification System (AIS). It reappeared three days later, outside the search area and on its way to refuel at the Australian port of Fremantle.
Despite calls by the missing passengers’ relatives, Seabed Constructor, Ocean Infinity and the Malaysian government have not explained what happened or where the ship sailed in those three days.
There are no journalists or family members on board the search ship, fuelling speculation and conspiracy theories.
Theories have spread online about the three-day data blackout, including one that Seabed Constructor took a detour to recover sunken treasure from the nearby wreck of the SV Inca, a Peruvian ship that sank in 1911.
But the newspaper the Guardian quotes Kevin Rupp, a precision machinist who has been tracking Seabed Constructor, as saying this was highly unlikely.
He thinks the tracker may have been turned off to stop unnecessary distress to the victim’s families.
“If the ship detected possible contacts [with MH370], its most likely action would be to move to the spot of the detections and lower an ROV – a tethered remote-controlled small vehicle,” he said.
“To do this, Seabed Constructor would have to sit still in one place for a long period of time and this would be very noticeable to those of us watching through our AIS tracking apps.”