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Robotic sub deployed, oil slick investigated

Monday - 4/14/2014, 3:30pm  ET

PERTH, Australia (AP) -- For the first time, search crews have sent a robotic submarine into the Indian Ocean to start searching the seabed for the missing Malaysian airliner.

For six days now, crews haven't detected any signals that are believed to be from the plane's black boxes. So the head of a joint agency coordinating the search off Australia's west coast says, "I guess it's time to go under water."

The sub can create a three-dimensional sonar map of any debris on the ocean floor.

Crews had been hoping to pick up additional signals before sending down the sub, so they could zero in on where the black boxes may be. But more than five weeks after the plane disappeared, the batteries powering the black-box signals are believed to be done.

Meanwhile, officials are investigating an oil slick about 3.4 miles from the area where the last underwater sounds were detected. They say a sample has been sent to Australia for analysis, a process that will take several days. According to the search coordinator, it doesn't appear to have come from any of the ships in the area -- but he warns against jumping to conclusions about the source of the oil.

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156-a-12-(Ian Wright, director, science and technology, National Oceanographic Center, in AP interview)-"next logical step"-Ian Wright of Britain's National Oceanographic Center says since the missing plane's black box "pingers" have apparently run out of battery strength, it makes sense to turn to a phase two of the search by using unmanned, deep-sea vehicles. (14 Apr 2014)


158-a-15-(Ian Wright, director, science and technology, National Oceanographic Center, in AP interview)-"months to locate"-Ian Wright of Britain's National Oceanographic Center says the methodical search for the missing plane will be slow going with the underwater technology employed. (14 Apr 2014)


APPHOTO XRG104: The chief coordinator of the Joint Agency Coordination Center retired Chief Air Marshal Angus Houston gestures as he speaks at a press conference about the ongoing search operations for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in Perth, Australia, Monday, April 14, 2014. Houston said search crews will send a robotic submarine deep into the Indian Ocean on Monday for the first time to try to determine whether underwater signals detected by sound-locating equipment are from the missing Malaysian plane's black boxes. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith) (14 Apr 2014)

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