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    Posted June 27, 2014 by

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    MH370 and a crowd-sourcer's lament

    The JACC released a report on June 26, 2014 titled "MH370--Definition of Underwater Search Area Report". This document details the scope and rationale for the next JACC-planned search area.

    Of particular interest to me was the image labelled MH370 Underwater Search Areas Planning Map, displaying the search areas further refined by priority. [ http://www.jacc.gov.au/media/releases/2014/june/mr052.aspx]

    The "1. Priority Search Area" [mustard yellow color] has its SW to SE side astride the underwater land feature called the "Broken Ridge".

    For several months, like many, I devoted thousands of hours to studying satellite imagery of various search areas, both land and sea. This imagery was provided by Digital Globe as part of the Tomnod Project. The project used the concept of "Crowdsourcing", a methodology requiring no degrees, expertise, etc. While certainly prone to human frailties, the approach can still yield results either through accidental discovery, consensus, luck, patience, varying skills and talents, etc.

    The Project's Satellite imagery was partitioned into a system of numbered [later renumbered alpha-numerically] "tiles". Tiles displayed approximately 400m by 280m based on their satellite resolution, or about 112000 square meters. (apparently taken down recently, by the host Tomnod web site. ) During the time it was online, I was able to examine over 230,000 satellite image tiles, the equivalent of 9936 square miles. About 95% of this was ocean and coastal surface.

    In order to support Tomnod's goals for that project, I annotated all identifiable objects, including pleasure boats, ships, oil slicks, oil or gas wells, airplanes, fishing boats, patrol boats. The conservative approach resulted in flagging about 400 "objects" altogether, nearly all of them of the preceding types. Overall, this yields a "object" sighting rate of only 17 in 10,000. [lot of ocean, and very little on it.] Only a dozen or so unidentifiable objects were so unusual in my opinion, as to warrant flagging (hypothetically ?) for further examination by the Tomnod staff and any agencies to whom they provided data.

    I sent some 22 reports to CNN's iReport web sub-site as "public interest" items, or objects worthy of some note. Of these 22 reports, 7 were filed in April.

    These all involved sightings within 100 nautical miles
    of the Southwest corner of the recent JACC's priority
    search area!!

    I have no confirmation they have seen any of my reports posted to CNN. I can say I emailed the AMSA twice, including once on April 16th to report the location of what I believed to be an oil leak. I received a polite reply. Their only comment was they were looking at a oil spill at the time about several hundreds of miles north of the coordinates I provided.

    I'm glad to see they either now concur -- or coincide anyway -- with my finding, and thus located the SW corner of Priority 1 search area within less than 100 nautical miles of where my email specified. One can only speculate what a difference it might have made if AMSA had taken the emailed report more seriously. By the time private contractors will start searching near the SW corner of Priority search area 1, nearly 4 months will have elapsed.

    I don;t know that the aircraft will be found there. But there are 5 other sightings I made and reported on to CNN's iReport all within a tight circle near the suspected oil leak. Given my object "hit" rating of only 2 dozen or so "unidentified floating objects", out of 230,000 tiles, 7 in close proximity really caught my eye. Pity it didn't apparently catch anyone else's back in April.

    There are no doubt many who will have contributed by the time it is found. And no doubt with the use of highly skilled analysis and mathematics. I just wanted to add that sometimes human eyes can "see" what no computer can. Crowd-sourcing might be scoffed at by many in the scientific community. But they might do well to recall that the night has a thousand eyes, and a thousand eyes can't help but see ....

    For the sake of the families and friends of the passengers and crew, I share the hope that MH370 and its occupants are found soon --no matter where, or by whom.

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