Wreck hunter open to helping find MH370

Francesca MannGeraldton Guardian

An American shipwreck hunter who helped discover the HMAS Sydney II says he would be open to helping find missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

The Boeing 777 disappeared in 2014 en route to Beijing from the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur with 239 people aboard.

Australia, Malaysia and China called off a $200 million, two-year search for the plane in January.

“The plane could be found, they just haven’t looked in the right place yet,” Mearns said at the recent launch of his book The Shipwreck Hunter in Geraldton.

“The families are quite anxious about what’s going to happen.

“If it’s (search) not resumed, which I think would be unacceptable, the only other option is to mount a privately funded search.

“It’s possible I may play a role in that but it’s very early days in terms of my own involvement.”

Mearns has already set his sights on two lost wrecks: the Norwegian ship Endurance, which sank in Antarctica, and the USS Indianapolis, an American heavy cruiser lost during WWII.

During the book launch, Mearns shared the stories behind some of the ships he has helped find.

His new book covers his entire career, exploring the methods and tools used to uncover the wrecks.

From uncovering ancient wrecks, like the 16th century Esmeralda, to World War II ships such as the Australian hospital ship Centaur, Mearns has helped bring some of the ocean’s biggest mysteries to a close.

But his job is not a walk in the park, with Mearns and his team often spending years working on one case.

“It all starts with research — we search for navigational clues in archives or libraries,” he said.

“Once that’s all done you may have to apply some oceanographic analysis, the topography of the seabed, to come up with an area that you believe the ship is in. Then you establish a budget, pick the right equipment, go out there and try and find it.”

After discovering a secret account inside a dictionary, Mearns teamed up with the Finding Sydney Foundation to search for the lost ship.

In 2008, the team discovered the German auxiliary cruiser Kormoran and the HMAS Sydney II within four days of each other.

Having spent a while in Geraldton during the search, Mearns said he had to return to the city for his book launch.

“Geraldton is a special place for me,” he said.

“I demanded we come on this tour and I’m really pleased to be here.

“We had enormous support, everybody really was bending over backwards to make sure that we were provided with the best service and support.”

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