Image Source: veooz.
An odd report was published on 10 March 2014 in the Washington Post about the 777 Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 that disappeared early on 8 March over the South China Sea. Relatives have been calling passengers' cell phones and getting ring tones, but no answers; they can leave messages - which have not been answered. A Chinese messenger service says the phones are still connected.
Image Source: Google via Mirror.
Is this a ghost in the machine between the virtual and real worlds? Are online accounts still active, while the physical phones in the real world no longer exist? Authorities have also rung the passengers' cell phones and heard ringing at the other end. Yet they have dismissed this fact as a technological glitch or hoax, adding to the despair of passengers' families and friends. From the Washington Post:
One of the most eerie rumors came after a few relatives said they were able to call the cellphones of their loved ones or find them on a Chinese instant messenger service called QQ that indicated that their phones were still somehow online.
A migrant worker in the room said that several other workers from his company were on the plane, including his brother-in-law. Among them, the QQ accounts of three still showed that they were online, he said Sunday afternoon.
Adding to the mystery, other relatives in the room said that when they dialed some passengers’ numbers, they seemed to get ringing tones on the other side even though the calls were not picked up.
The phantom calls triggered a new level of desperation and anger for some. They tried repeatedly Sunday and Monday to ask airline and police officials about the ringing calls and QQ accounts. However unlikely it was, many thought the phones might still be on, and that if authorities just tracked them down, their relatives might be found. But they were largely ignored.
According to Singapore’s Strait[s] Times, a Malaysia Airlines official, Hugh Dunleavy, told families that the company had tried calling mobile phones of crew members as well and that they had also rang. The company turned over those phone numbers to Chinese authorities.
Some of the anger ebbed Monday as Chinese officials and Malaysia Airlines began shepherding relatives through the process of getting passports and visas to travel to Kuala Lumpur and to await word of the airplane.
Finally given something to do, many families busied themselves with paperwork and trips to the Malaysian Embassy and Chinese passport offices.
But by late afternoon, many were debating whether to board a flight early Tuesday morning or wait in Beijing for further news.
For the small group holding out hope over the online QQ accounts of their loved ones, evening brought yet another crushing blow.
One man said he had convinced two policemen to come to his home Sunday night to witness the active QQ account on his desktop computer. But sometime Monday afternoon, when he wasn’t paying attention, it had suddenly switched off.
Like so many involved, he was now left with even more questions left unanswered. Did the phone’s battery run out? Had sea water damaged it? Was it just a random anomaly of some Internet server? Or was the plane hijacked and still out there somewhere?
“I hope someone can answer these questions for me,” he said.See a telecommunications expert explain the cell phones' activity here; CNN debunks the mystery cell phone story here.
Several family members told Mr Dunleavy that passengers' mobile phones were ringing, although no one picked up. The connection should be used to get the Global Positioning System coordinates of the phones' locations, they said.
Mr Dunleavy said MAS was also trying the mobile phones of the crew members, and that they also rang. But it could not do more, he said, and had given the numbers to the Chinese authorities.
At one point, rumours and excitement spread that one passenger had called home, but Mr Dunleavy said this was likely a hoax.
Madam Nan, who declined to give her full name and whose husband works in Singapore and was on board the plane, caused a stir when she dialled through to her husband's mobile phone. Others present spoke to the person on the other end for her as the person could not understand her Shandong accent.
It turned out that she had entered the wrong country code and got through to a random Beijinger instead. Crestfallen, she and her six family members who had just arrived in Beijing yesterday said they were at their wits' end.
The Young Turks Youtube program discusses the conspiracy theories about the missing Malaysian Air 370 flight. Video Source: Youtube.
Passengers' relatives and friends even believe that the plane has been hijacked, has secretly refueled in Vietnam and Thailand and is en route somewhere behind a news blackout. Did the Malaysian military track it? In a way, this theory is completely understandable because they so badly want their loved ones still to be alive. TIME outlined this and other conspiracy theories floating around the Internet about the missing plane as follows:
- Eerie cell phones rings could mean passengers’ phones are still on—or inhabited by ghosts.
- An otherworldly portal could have sucked up the flight.
- The flight’s disappearance was predetermined and perhaps written into the very fabric of the universe. Reddit is rife with commenters fixated on the numerical coincidences of the flight’s disappearance. “Interesting numerology,” said one Reddit user, RedditB. “Flight 370 disappears on 3/7 while reportedly traveling 3,700 km. Flight 370 flew at an altitude of 37,000 feet when it was last reported using flight tracking software. Luigi Maraldi, age 37, was one of the individuals whose passport was stolen. Malaysia Airlines is one of Asia’s largest, flying nearly 37,000 passengers daily. As of today, we are beginning the 37th month since the Fukushima tragedy, which is located on the 37th degree and initially caused 37 injuries at the plant.”
- The North Koreans hijacked the jet.
- The Illuminati did it. One guess points to the supposed vortex energy points on the earth’s surface that Illuminati “and/or ancient aliens” who can control the energy grid. Commenters and bloggers emerged to point to occultists and nefarious shadowy figures who helped down the plane. While the absence of a distress signal has helped such conspiracy theories abound, it does not rule out the very real possibility that the jet exploded at a high altitude and disintegrated. It’s a terrifying prospect because it would mean no trace of the jet will be found, and that the search for the plane is in vain. “The fact that there was no distress signal is very disturbing,” Ross Aimer, an aviation consultant, told Al-Jazeera. “It’s almost unprecedented.”
Never underestimate the Web's lunatic ability to generate surreal myth and rumour masquerading as facts; there are more Malaysian Air flight 370 conspiracy theories, here, here and here. Ironically, conspiracy theorists rarely imagine that they themselves are breeders and conveyers of disinformation because they actually believe the things they are saying. A favourite acronym now used to refer to online miscommunication is FUD - Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt, and this story has all its hallmarks. The more technology provides us with information and data, the more slippery our grasp becomes on reality. And in a way, you can't blame the wild fantasists, because as Extreme Tech rightly pointed out: How on earth with all our technology, do we lose a giant plane?
In a more positive employment of the Web's capabilities, the Colorado-based firm, DigitalGlobe Inc. - a high resolution satellite imagery company - has gathered satellite images of the sea at the time the plane disappeared and is allowing online users to crowd-search the images for clues on the airplane's fate. The link to join that effort is here, although at the time of writing this post, the site brought up a 404-type message.
Image Source: Free Republic.
For my posts on Ghosts in the Machine, go here and here.
See all my posts on Millennial Mysteries.