Officials leading the multinational search for Flight 370 said there was no specific information that led to the underwater devices being used for the first time, but that they were brought into the effort because there was nothing to lose.
An arduous weeks-long hunt has not turned up a single piece of wreckage that could have led the searchers to the plane and eventually to its black boxes, which contain key information about the flight.
"No hard evidence has been found to date, so we have made the decision to search a sub-surface area on which the analysis has predicted MH370 is likely to have flown," Cmdr. Peter Leahy, the commander of military forces involved in the search, said in a statement.
Two ships with sophisticated equipment that can hear the pings made their way Friday along a 240-kilometer (150-mile) route investigators hope may be close to the spot Flight 370 entered the water after it vanished March 8 on a flight from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing.
The head of the joint agency coordinating the search acknowledged that the search area was essentially just a best guess — and noted time is running out to find the coveted data recorders.
"The locater beacon will last about a month before it ceases its transmissions — so we're now getting pretty close to the time when it might expire," Angus Houston said.
The Australian navy ship Ocean Shield towed a pinger locator from the U.S. Navy and the British navy's HMS Echo, equipped with similar gear, looked for the black boxes in an area investigators' settled on after analyzing hourly satellite pings the aircraft gave off after it disappeared.
That information, combined with data on the estimated speed and performance of the aircraft, led them to that specific stretch of ocean, Houston said.
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