Nothing highlights the change of season, the shifting tides, the gathering autumnal storms like searching for pieces of a jetliner in the southern Indian ocean. As many an ancient mariner will tell you, time spent riding up and down on the the wide wide wide wide sea ferments a particular frame of mind amongst men, one that see saws between humble perspective and atavistic madness. It should come as no surprise then that international cargo shipping is a gleeful and carefree enterprise, unsullied by the terrestrial anxieties of love and loss. Indeed, the ocean’s unbounded, lawless frontiers coax the pioneering, colonial spirit out of the cloistered confines of the ironed shirt, the bus pass, the fiddly little plastic container of sushi. On the high and roaring seas man can realise the same urgencies that have dictated countless conquests, separated victor from victim, sheep from goats. Indeed, sea-faring men are a law unto themselves, unto the sea.
In other words, the ocean is absolutely chock-full of shit, including floating gyres of rubbish spanning thousands of kilometres. But perhaps more significantly for the current airline predicament, hundreds of shipping containers slide into the ocean each year, some of which are actually strategically connected to one another in order to enable more efficient disposal at sea. Here’s just one recent article giving you some idea of the problem. Insulated containers can float for months and are a well known boating and shipping hazard.
My question is, how much time, energy, fuel and ultimately money will our governments spend trying to identify pieces of sea-borne rubbish as the missing Malaysian aircraft?