Some sobbing and stumbling, others shivering silently in a brisk breeze, relatives of Swissair Flight 111's victims sent wreaths out to sea Saturday and carried away jars of water from the ocean where their loved ones died.
Offshore from the rocky ledge where the mourners stood, there was a potential breakthrough in the search for the jet's missing flight recorders, which could provide clues into the cause of the crash late Wednesday that killed all 229 people aboard.Search commanders said a Canadian submarine had detected signals coming from one of the recorders. Divers working at a depth of 190 feet tried to pinpoint the location, but they were hindered by limited visibility and planned to resume the hunt Sunday.
The searchers also said sonar probes had detected a cylindrical object, about 30 feet long, on the seabed. Whether it was part of the fuselage or just a rock remained to be determined, Navy Capt. Phil Webster said.
Crash investigators released excerpts of the final conversation between the plane's pilots and air traffic controllers in Moncton, New Brunswick.
The pilots reported smoke in the cockpit 16 minutes before the crash, then spent 10 minutes getting directions for a rapid descent from 33,000 feet and for dumping fuel into the ocean before heading toward an emergency landing in Halifax.
The plane made two sharp turns, then communications ceased six minutes before the plane hit the water. The crew's last words were: "We are declaring an emergency . . . we have to land immediately."
"All of the conversations were very professional," said Vic Ger-den, the chief crash investigator. But he said communications became less clear in the last stages, suggesting the pilots may have donned smoke masks that affected their speech.
In all, more than 300 family members have flown to Halifax from New York, the plane's starting point, and Geneva, its intended destination.
Most of them were driven in chartered buses Saturday to Peggy's Cove, the tiny, picturesque fishing village near the ocean crash site that has become the base for the search operation.
Police and soldiers kept a large media contingent well away from the area cordoned off for the mourners, and only a few agreed to speak with journalists.
One of them was Claire Mortimer, 45, of Berkeley, Calif., whose father, John Mortimer, a former executive of The New York Times, was among the victims.
"My father would have wanted me to be here," she said. "It's ironic that he has died in the ocean that he loved. . . . In an odd way, it's very comforting to me to come here and see this beautiful place."
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police deployed boats to take wreaths out to the crash site, a few miles from shore, and bring back jars of sea water to be kept by relatives in remembrance.
One distraught woman handed her baby to a companion and ran past a barricade toward the sea, only to be stopped by grief counselors who led her back to a tent.
In the afternoon, scores of the relatives gathered in a Halifax convention center for a private memorial service.
The day began with an expanded effort to search the ocean floor for the plane's fuselage and flight recorders. The HMCS Okanagan, a Canadian submarine, was deployed for a second day to make a sonar map of the seabed, and 75 police and military divers were in action for the first time.
Lt. Commander Mike Considine, a navy spokesman, said searchers still had found no piece of wreckage larger than a car roof. Divers and unmanned submersibles would be checking areas where sonar probes suggested the possible presence of larger pieces, he said.