The unprecedented mystery behind the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines flight MH 370 deepened on Monday when relatives claimed they were able to call the cellphones of their missing loved ones.
According to the Washington Post, family of some of the 239 people on board the vanished Boeing 777 said that they were getting ring tones and could see them active online through a Chinese social networking service called QQ.
Repeatedly telling Malaysian Airlines officials about the QQ accounts and ringing telephone calls, they hoped that modern technology could simply triangulate the GPS signal of the phones and locate their relatives.
According to a China.org.cn report, 19 families signed a statement saying that dialing their loved ones' phones leads to a ring, rather than going straight to voicemail, as one would expect of a phone in airplane mode or otherwise unable to be reached.
The relatives have asked for a full investigation and some complained that Malaysian Airlines is not telling the whole truth.
This new eerie development comes as the Malaysian authorities said they were now switching the focus of their search zone for the plane southwards - on the other side of the Malaysian peninsular.
However, the answer to the mystery of ringing phones lies in technology. According to Devin Coldewey of NBC News, "however eerie this seems, it may have more to do with how mobile phones and networks operate than any deeper mystery."
Coldewey writes: "When you hit the call button on some phones, a ringing tone begins immediatelyâ€¦. The search for the party on the receiving end may be nearly instantaneous, or take a few seconds - during which time the phone (depending on model, network and other variables) may or may not make a ringing noise to indicate to the caller that it is attempting to make the cell connection. So while it may ring four times for you, the person you're calling may only hear it ring once -- or not at all."
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