KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Blaine Gibson's interest in the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 started as a casual curiosity. Within a year it had developed into a full-blown obsession, which has taken him to ten countries searching for debris from the missing airliner since 2015.
Remarkably, Gibson has been successful where a multi-national search effort costing hundreds of millions of dollars has not: He's actually found parts of the plane. Gibson has been involved in recovering at least 17 of the 32 pieces of debris said to be "highly likely" to come from MH370 by the Malaysian government.
The flight was carrying 239 passengers and crew when it disappeared on March 8, 2014 after taking off from Kuala Lumpur International Airport bound for Beijing. A short time into the flight Boeing 777 made an unscheduled turn and stopped communicating with air traffic control.
It's presumed to have crashed somewhere in the Indian Ocean more than seven hours later. The most expensive search in aviation history was carried out but found nothing. The Malaysian transport minister says his government would be prepared to look at specific proposals to restart the search of the plane.
Gibson's strategy has been to study oceanographic patterns to try and figure out where debris might have traveled across the Indian Ocean, then go beach-combing.
"All these crazy theories that the plane is in the jungle of Cambodia, the Gulf of Thailand, the Bay of Bengal, Kazakhstan or the deep southern Indian Ocean intact underwater after a controlled ditching — those are all disproven by the debris alone," said Gibson.
Gibson found his first piece of MH370 in February 2016 on a sandbank off the coast of Mozambique. The publicity surrounding his find led other people to get in touch saying they'd found debris too, and Gibson developed a network in countries around the Indian Ocean.
"People asked me: ‘were you happy when you found a piece of Malaysia 370?’," said Gibson.
"Happy would be if I'd gone out to that sandbank and found 239 people grilling seafood sipping on coconuts saying, 'hey what took you so long?'"
VICE News followed Gibson as he visited the Malaysian Ministry of Transport, where most of the recovered pieces of debris thought to be from MH370 are stored.
This segment originally aired March 8, 2019, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.