Startlingly clear images of a previously uncharted wreck, most likely from the 19th century, emerged after underwater drones were dispatched to investigate the potential lead.
Search vessel Fugro Equator's deep tow system "detected a cluster of small sonar contacts" of potential interest near the so-called 7th arc before another Fugro ship was dispatched to take a closer look, resulting in the images, according to Australian authorities.
An anchor, as well as parts of a destroyed hull, can clearly be seen in the photos. The wreck lies at a depth of 3,900 meters (12,795 ft).
"We were cautious about this," said Peter Foley, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau's (ATSB) Director of the Operational Search for MH370.
"There were characteristics of the contact that made it unlikely to be MH370, but there were also aspects that generated interest, multiple small bright reflections in a relatively small area of otherwise featureless seabed."
Hard to identify
Western Australian Maritime Museum curator Michael McCarthy told Australia's ABC network
that there are "hundreds" of such ships that would have gone down in the oceans over the centuries, and that it was potentially difficult to identify the wreck.
"The best we can do at the moment is a mid-to late 19th century wooden hull, iron sailing ship and of unknown origin but of European-style build," he said.
"There are hundreds of ships lost in our world's oceans over time, through old age, cyclones, typhoons and one would expect this to occur."
The ATSB's Foley says he is "disappointed" that the sonar data didn't return more positive results directly relating to the search, but says the operation must continue.
The Fugro teams have moved on from the location but will transmit their findings to marine archeologists in the hope of identifying the wreck.
Australian officials have said previously
that the search of the current priority zone where they believe Flight 370 went down is expected to be completed this month. If no trace is found in that 60,000-square-kilometer area, the search will be expanded to include a new zone of the same size, the governments of Malaysia, Australia and China announced last month.