(CNN, April 5, 2014)- In what may turn out to be a major breakthrough in the monthlong search for Malaysia Airlines flight 370, a Chinese patrol ship searching the southern Indian Ocean discovered Saturday the pulse signal used by so-called black boxes, state news agency Xinhua reported.
But the pulse signal has not been confirmed, China’s Maritime Search and Rescue Center reported, according to China Communications News, which is the Ministry of Transport’s official newspaper.
Xinhua said a detector deployed by the Haixun 01 patrol ship picked up the signal around 25 degrees south latitude and 101 degrees east longitude. “It is yet to be established whether it is related to the missing jet,” it said.
“It’s not the prime search area, but it’s not out of the question that this could possibly be from the black box,” said David Gallo, who is with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
Also found Saturday — spotted by a Chinese air force search plane — were white objects floating near the search area, about 1,700 miles (2,700 kilometers) from Perth, Australia, Xinhua said.
A China Central Television correspondent aboard the Haixun-01 (pronounced “high shuen”) reported that the 37.5 kHz signal was detected every second for 1.5 minutes Saturday.
The signal “is the standard beacon frequency” for the plane’s cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder, said Anish Patel, president of pinger manufacturer Dukane Seacom.
The frequency was chosen for use in the recorders “to give that standout quality that does not get interfered with by the background noise that readily occurs in the ocean.”
But he said he would like to see more evidence. “I’d like to see some additional assets on site quickly — maybe some sonobuoys,” he said, referring to 5-inch-long (13-centimeter) sonar systems that are dropped from aircraft or ships.
And he said he was puzzled that only one signal had been detected, since each of the recorders was equipped with a pinger, which is also called a beacon.
Other experts cautioned that no confirmation had been made that the signal was linked to the missing plane.