The ongoing search and recovery operation for the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner was suspended on Tuesday because of extreme weather in the southern Indian Ocean.” A visual search will resume tomorrow when the weather is expected to improve after gale force winds and heavy swells resulted in the suspension of the search operation on Tuesday,” the Australian Maritime Safety Authority said in a briefing sent to Mashable. As many as 12 aircraft were grounded as a result of the weather, the AMSA said, making “any air and sea search activities hazardous and pose a risk to crew.”
Which you can see in this NASA visible satellite image of the South Indian Ocean, showing several storms in the area on March 25.
It's a frustrating wait for the families of the missing, some of whom on Tuesday gathered in front of the Malaysia embassy in Beijing, demanding answers one day after the country's prime minister said Malaysia Airline Flight 370 “ended” in the Indian Ocean. All they want is a shred of evidence — a debris field, ideally — before they can accept the word of the Malaysian government.
The truth is that the area in the south Indian Ocean is one of the worst places on Earth to lose an aircraft. To conduct search and salvage operations in the region means combating with chaotic seas that are stirred with massive waves, driven by winds that often exceed hurricane force — we're talking 74 miles per hour.
The search area for the airplane — and the 239 people on board — is located in and adjacent to an area known as the “Roaring Forties,” which refers to the corridor of strong westerly winds that circle the southern hemisphere between about 40 and 50 degrees latitude.
This area marks the transition zone between temperate air to the north and frigid, polar air to the south. These temperature differences serve to power the winds, which in turn can kick up some of the most formidable seas found anywhere on the planet.
There are a number of videos on YouTube that capture footage of some of the swells ships can expect to encounter in the area. Here's one that captures “one minute on the notorious roaring 40's,” shot just 10 days out of Capetown headed for Perth, Australia, per the video's description.
(One increasingly popular video that purports to show high waves in the search for the missing jetliner couldn't be confirmed by Mashable. The YouTube user who posted the clip tells us he “can't provide additional details.” A reporter at Storyful says they came to the same conclusion, saying it is “impossible to verify, on a dubious account and there's certainly no evidence that it's related to MH370.”)
Once the seas calm, a total of six countries will rejoin the search: Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Japan, China and the Republic of Korea. India has offered to join the search and recovery operation as well.
Australia's HMAS Success is expected to return the search area and “conduct a surface sweep of an area identified on Monday afternoon by a Royal Australian Air Force P3 Orion as the location for several objects of interest,” the AMSA says. China's icebreaker, the Xue Long (aka Snow Dragon), will be joined by three other Chinese ships expected to arrive on Wednesday.
The first planes should take off around 5 a.m. local time on Wednesday (5 p.m. ET Tuesday).
This article originally appeared on Mashable.