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Searching for MH370

Seven graduates of the University of Otago's Bachelor of Surveying programme are among the team of specialists who have been on the frontlines of the search for missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370.

Even before officially graduating in May 2015, Kate Downes, Jason Farr, Rhiannon Woolhouse-Williams, Dan Graham, Ian Hauman, Hayes Ballantyne and William Greer were working as hydrographic surveyors with Fugro Surveying Pty Ltd, the Netherlands-based company contracted to locate the Boeing 777 that disappeared en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014, with 227 passengers and 12 crew on board.

Based in Perth, Australia, their work has taken them hundreds of kilometres off-shore, aboard highly-specialised search vessels that scan the deep, and sometimes uncharted, waters of the southern Indian Ocean in search of clues to the aircraft's whereabouts – a search area covering some 120,000km2, in waters up to 5000 metres deep.

Working 12-hour shifts, during six-week deployments, on board one of three Fugro search vessels, the surveyors have never lost sight of their ultimate goal: to help solve the mystery of the missing MH370 and bring closure for the families of the 239 victims.

“Every day could be the day the plane is found,” says Kate Downes. “I feel privileged to be involved in a job that so many people around the world are interested in knowing the outcome of.”

Ian Hauman, who was aboard Fugro Discovery on the one-year anniversary of the tragedy, echoes his classmate's sentiments. “Reading the messages that the victims' family sent to everyone working on the job reminds us of the greater purpose to this work and that a lot of people have been relying on what we do.”

They have been monitoring the position of equipment, processing navigational data and instructing bridge officers where to steer and what speed to go so that the “towfish” – the instrument capturing images of the seafloor – is in the right location at all times.

“If you mention to someone that you are a hydrographic surveyor, you get a rather muted response,” says Daniel Graham. “But when you say you are working on the MH370 search, their interest immediately spikes.”

Most of the group say they only became aware of hydrographic surveying as a career option in their fourth year of study when they opted for elective papers Hydrographic Surveying I and Hydrographic Surveying II, instructed by Emily Tidey.

“I like the science and technology behind hydrographic surveying,” explains Billy Greer. “But it's the idea of 'discovering' or mapping new parts of the world that have not been charted that really drew me in.”

The team say they've quickly learned that the University of Otago has an excellent reputation amongst employers in the field of surveying, with more than a dozen other Otago surveying alumni working at Fugro's Perth offices alone.

“If Australian-based companies are coming to New Zealand to recruit graduates, rather than recruiting from Australian universities, then Otago's reputation speaks for itself,” says Jason Farr.

Banner caption: Graduation day for the Otago surveyors who have been part of the search for Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 (from left): Hayes Ballantyne, Kate Downes, Jason Farr, Rhiannon Woolhouse-Williams, Dan Graham, Ian Hauman, Billy Greer.

New alumni benefit: GoinGlobal

GoinGlobal, a leading provider of country-specific information, and international career and employment resources, is now available to the wider University of Otago community.

A joint venture between Otago's Career Development Centre, Development and Alumni Relations, and International offices, this offers a “one-stop” resource for alumni at any stage of their career, international students wishing to live and work in a location other than New Zealand or their home country, and for domestic students and staff wishing to work or study overseas.

GoinGlobal is used around the world by university career centres, educational and institutional organisations, libraries, corporate HR departments and government agencies.

Its database includes:

• More than 16 million worldwide job postings and internship listings, updated daily
• Country-specific career guides with expert advice on issues ranging from employment trends to work permit and visa regulations
• An employer directory with more than 450,000 corporate profiles
• Digital communications across a range of channels including LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

To find out more and to access GoinGlobal:
Alumni can contact
Students and staff should login to OtagoCareerHub.

Supporting Otago


Two large and extraordinary Bibles have recently been added to the University's collections, both gifts facilitated by Otago alumni. A two-volume limited edition Pennyroyal Caxton Bible (above) was gifted to the Library's Special Collections from the Kovner Foundation, with the assistance of the University of Otago in America, Inc. Volume one contains the five books of Moses, the historical books and the books of poetry, and volume two contains the books of prophecy and the New Testament.

A reproduction of the Codex Sinaiticus Bible has also been received by Knox College's Hewitson Library. The gift was facilitated by Sydney alumnus Mr Chris Telford from the estate of a collector who “wanted it to go to a good home”. The Codex Sinaiticus was hand-written in Greek in the middle of the fourth century and contains the earliest complete copy of the Christian New Testament.

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