Search for Missing Flight’s Wreckage Is Hampered by a Sea of Detritus

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In recent days, the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner has focused on blurry satellite images and other sightings of objects floating in the desolate reaches of the southern Indian Ocean.

So far, none of the objects have been retrieved or identified. They could be aircraft wreckage, but even the officials leading the search for Flight 370 acknowledge that the objects could be something else. And that something else, people who study marine debris say, could be just about anything.

“Any search and rescue attempt will be hampered by untold quantities of debris,” said Charles Moore, a sailor who studies marine debris at the Algalita Marine Research Institute in Long Beach, Calif. Even with relatively high-resolution satellite imaging, he said, “you are going to be confounded by the detritus of civilization.”

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