But that may prove tricky, given that the sub can only dive to about 4,500 meters (14,800 feet) — the approximate depth of the water. That means the vehicle will be operating to the limits of its capability.
Given the difficulties involved, officials warned the mystery of Flight 370 would still take time to resolve.
"It could take some days before the information is available to establish whether these detections can be confirmed as being from MH370," Houston said. "In very deep oceanic water, nothing happens fast."
Geoff Dell, discipline leader of accident investigation at Central Queensland University in Australia, said it would be "coincidental in the extreme" for the sounds to have come from anything other than an aircraft's black box.
"If they have a got a legitimate signal, and it's not from one of the other vessels or something, you would have to say they are within a bull's roar," he said. "There's still a chance that it's a spurious signal that's coming from somewhere else and they are chasing a ghost, but it certainly is encouraging that they've found something to suggest they are in the right spot."
Meanwhile, the British ship HMS Echo, was using sophisticated sound-locating equipment to try to determine whether two separate sounds heard by a Chinese ship about 555 kilometers (345 miles) away from the Ocean Shield were related to the plane. The patrol vessel Haixun 01 detected a brief "pulse signal" on Friday and a second signal on Saturday.
The crew of the Chinese ship reportedly picked up the signals using a sonar device called a hydrophone dangled over the side of a small boat — something experts said was technically possible but extremely unlikely. The equipment aboard the British and Australian ships is dragged slowly behind each vessel over long distances and is considered far more sophisticated.
The search effort was also continuing on the ocean surface Monday. Twelve planes and 14 ships were searching three designated zones, one of which overlaps with the Ocean Shield's underwater search. All of the previous surface searches have found only fishing equipment or other sea trash floating in the water, but have found no debris related to the Malaysian plane.