KUALA LUMPUR, March 12 – Scientific research should be conducted to confirm if the towelette found at Thirsty Point, Australia is linked to the missing Malaysia Airlines (MAS) MH370 jetliner. Director of the Institute of Oceanography and Maritime Studies IIUM, Prof Madya Dr Mohamed Kamil Abdul Rashid said scientists must inspect the organisms on the packaging if it had been in sea for a long period of time.
“It would usually take weeks for organisms to be stuck to an object once it is ready. If the object was found at sea in July 2014, there should be organisms or algae attached to the object. “But if it is still clean, it may not have been at sea for a long period. There could be a possibility that someone might have taken an object from a MAS plane and put it there,” said Dr Mohamed Kamil when contacted by Astro AWANI, today.
He also pointed out other determining factors which should be taken into account. “First of all, Malaysia Airlines must confirm if the towelette was used onboard the MH370 flight. “Then scientists must conduct a study if the object was supposed to reach Thirsty Point based on the information that the plane ended in the Indian Ocean, and with the movement of currents and waves,” he said.
Mohamed Kamil added, if the object is of MH370 then there must be other objects around the same area as well based on the current movements. “So far, there is only one object found. We need to do more research,” he explained. A Dean from Universiti Malaysia Terengganu (UMT)’s School of Marine and Environmental Science, Prof. Dr. Zulfigar Yasin said without further evidence the towelette remains a package which needs further investigation.
“The right evidence is when the evidence will reveal the serial number and type of equipments used in MH370. Without further evidence, we are still unsure,” he said. Asked if there should be physical changes to the objects, Dr Zulfigar said: “Plastic takes a long time to decay. If it is non-biodegradable, it will take hundreds of years for it to decay.
Meanwhile, the Director of Radiation Processing and Polymer Science of Nuclear Malaysia Dr Zulkafli Ghazali said plastic wrappers made out of polypropylene (PP) or polyethylene (PE) will last for years. He said the two types are commonly used in packaging adding that PE and PP do not biodegrade but breaksdown when subjected to UV radiation from sun, a process known as photodegradation.
“The polymer chains become brittle and crack due to polymer molecule breakdown. A complete breakdown will take years to happen under intense UV radiation. “Certainly, within four months only very little breakdown occur and thus properties of plastic film should remain intact. Salt water will not influence much of plastic degradation but microorganism can influence and enhance plastic breakdown.
“It can be safely said that a plastic film may degrade between from 10 to 100 years (estimates vary) if exposed to the sun,” he added. Meanwhile, Johan Lee from a company which supplies marine pilots — mariners trained in specific ports for intimate knowledge of a particular area — agreed that a thorough investigation is needed before determining the source of the towelette.
“Plastics can last long but we need to check the barnacles, algae and organisms that’s stuck with the plastic. “Every area has its own growth and there should be a check if the growths are not natives to the area,” said Johan who is the Administrative Manager of Blue Water Pilotage & Tugboats (M) Sdn Bhd.
“It might have fallen of a ship carrying MAS supplies. It might have originated from the (MH370) aircraft. There are a million possibilities. “We have one towelette, so it may still be an isolated case,” said Johan. A 6cm x 8cm moist towelette in wrapping branded with the Malaysia Airlines logo was found at Thirsty Point on 2 July 2014. It was handed in to the Western Australian police.
“It is unlikely, however, that such a common item with no unique identifier could be conclusively linked with MH370,” said the Australian Transport Safety Bureau. One year on, mystery continues to surround the fate of the Boeing 777-200 aircraft that disappeared from air traffic control radar after taking off from Kuala Lumpur on a flight to Beijing.