Deep water thwarts robot sub’s 1st search for jet

Australia Malaysia Plane

PERTH, Australia (AP) — The robotic submarine hunting for the missing Malaysian jet has had its first mission cut short.

The U.S. Navy and search coordinators say a built-in safety feature aborted what was supposed to have been a 16-hour mission to create a sonar map of the ocean floor after only six hours. The Bluefin 21 is programmed to hover 100 feet above the seabed, creating a three-dimensional sonar map. But the sub entered an area that was deeper than its maximum depth of 15,000 feet and automatically headed back to the surface.

Officials say it was not damaged.

The Navy says the data the Bluefin managed to collect has been analyzed and shows no sign of the missing plane.

Crews are shifting the Bluefin’s search area away from the deepest water and hope to send it back on another mission later today.

Meanwhile, a sample from an oil slick about 3 and a-half miles from the area where the last underwater sounds were detected is being analyzed. Search officials say it does not appear to be from any of the ships in the area, but caution against jumping to conclusions about its source.

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