How to find a missing jet.

Can a seismograph help?


9/19/20231 min read

You have probably heard about the F-35 that the Marines recently lost and finally found after several days of searching. I am curious as to whether they did, or could have, used seismographs to find it.

In 2000, the world learned that a Russian sub, the Kursk, was missing. Following the Soviet tradition, information about it was scarce. However, there was one group of people who quickly had a pretty good idea about what happened – seismologists. We eventually learned there was an explosion on board that caused the sub to sink. It was a big explosion. So big that it measured 4.2 on the Richter scale and was detected in Alaska. Seismologist were actually able to compare the signal from the Kursk from a previous sub explosion. They matched.

Seismologists locate the origin of earthquakes through triangulation, the same method we use to locate ourselves via GPS. Which leads to my question – could they have used seismographs to locate the lost plane? It had to crash eventually. While there wouldn’t be an explosion comparable to the Kursk, I am sure there were many seismographs a lot closer than Alaska to detect a substantial impact. I can’t remember specific incidents, but I know I have had similar thoughts in other situations over the years.

I am welcome to any comments to further educate me. Here is a link to an article written in 2001 about the Kursk telling a bit more about the seismic aspect of it.