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Missing jet: Uncertainty makes hunt uniquely hard

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CANBERRA, Australia — Not one object has been recovered from the missing airliner that Malaysian officials are now convinced plunged into the southern Indian Ocean 17 days ago. Some of the pieces are likely 11,500 feet underwater. Others are bobbing in a fickle system of currents that one oceanographer compares to a pinball machine. And by now, they could easily be hundreds of miles away from each other.

The job of gathering this wreckage, and especially the black boxes that…

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