A Chinese Ship Detected a Ping, Which Could Mean the Malaysia Airline's Black Box Has Been Found

Nearly a month into the hunt for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, a Chinese search vessel detected a 'pulse signal' in the southern Indian Ocean on Saturday. Although officials have been quick to warn that it could mean nothing — which is understandable, after nearly four weeks of false leads and crushed hopes — the signal is the standard frequency for black boxes, such as the one on the missing jet.

According to state news agency Xinhua, the Chinese patrol ship Haixun 01 "discovered a pulse signal with a frequency of 37.5kHz per second in south Indian Ocean waters." This is, Anish Patel, president of pinger manufacturer Dukane Seacom told CNN, "the standard beacon frequency" for the jet's black boxes.

"They're identical," Patel said.If these signals do turn out to be from the missing airplane's cockpit voice recorder, then this would be close to miraculous timing. With a battery life of only 30 days, the ping-emitting recorder has been the searchers' main hope for figuring out what happened to the Boeing 777. Not only could the voice recordings themselves shed some light on the mysterious series of events that led to the plane's disappearance on March 8, the signals are the team's best chance of pinpointing where the plane actually is now.

According to state news, the detector on the Chinese patrol ship picked up the signals twice: once at nearly 4 p.m. local time and then again around 4:30 p.m. Both times, they were detected at roughly 101 degrees east longitude and 25 degrees south latitude, though "It is yet to be established whether it is related to the missing jet." Officials are cautioning against getting hopes up. Defense Minister David Johnston has said he hasn't yet received a report about the signal, and that it's too early to make any definitive calls. "This is not the first time we have had something that has turned out to be very disappointing," he warned. "I'm just going to wait for ... my team to come forward with something that's positive because this is a very very difficult task."

Whether or not the pulse signals will finally answer our questions about the 239 passengers that went missing, only time will tell. Regardless, Saturday's international search effort will continue. Nearly 10 military planes, 11 ships and 3 civilian aircraft are scouring 84,000 square miles of ocean, some 1,050 miles northwest of Perth.