Argentinian Sub, ARA San Juan, Found a Year After it Went Missing

San Juan, front view, Mar del Plata.Photo: Angel Torrez CC BY-SA 4.0

A tweet from the Argentinian Navy stated that one of their submarines, ARA San Juan, which went missing on November 15, 2017, 430km (267 miles) off the coast of Argentina had been found.

It is a year since the submarine went missing. Just before the announcement, relatives had gathered at a memorial for the missing submariners. The President of Argentina, Mauricio Macri, promised to keep searching for the missing sub, even though the Navy had called off the official search two weeks after the submarine first disappeared.

The Navy shared a photograph showing an object 60 meters (almost 197 feet) long lying on the seabed, which they assumed was the missing sub.

ARA San Juan (S-42) in 2007.Photo: Martin Otero CC BY 2.5
ARA San Juan (S-42) in 2007.Photo: Martin Otero CC BY 2.5

The Argentinian Navy contracted Ocean Infinity, a private American company, to undertake the search for the submarine when the official search was called off.

Ocean Infinity uses underwater rovers to map the seabed, and they found and positively identified the sub at a depth of 800m (2,620 feet) below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean.

Enrique Balbi, a spokesman for the Argentinian Navy, explained that ARA San Juan had been on a routine mission to Ushuaia, on the southern end of the South American continent, when it reported an electrical malfunction.

Argentine rescue commanders discuss current operations with U.S. Navy Cmdr. Michael Eberlein, commanding officer of Undersea Rescue Command (URC). URC is based in San Diego and is mobilizing two rescue assets to assist in search and rescue efforts for the Argentine navy submarine ARA San Juan (S-42).
Argentine rescue commanders discuss current operations with U.S. Navy Cmdr. Michael Eberlein, commanding officer of Undersea Rescue Command (URC). URC is based in San Diego and is mobilizing two rescue assets to assist in search and rescue efforts for the Argentine navy submarine ARA San Juan (S-42).

The crew said that water had entered via the snorkel, which is a device to allow fresh air into the submarine when submerged near the surface. The salty sea water had dripped onto a set of electrical batteries located in the prow of the sub, causing a short circuit and a smoldering fire.

Naval Commander Gabriel Galeazzi stated that the crew had surfaced and reported the fault to the relevant authorities, who told them to return to the naval base in Mar del Plata so that the fault could be rectified.

President Macri being informed at the Libertad Building, 24 November 2017.Photo: Casa Rosada (Argentina Presidency of the Nation) CC BY 2.5
President Macri being informed at the Libertad Building, 24 November 2017.Photo: Casa Rosada (Argentina Presidency of the Nation) CC BY 2.5

This communication took place on November 15, 2017, at approximately 07:30 local time (10:30 GMT). The dialogue included an assurance from the captain that the 44 crew members were all fine.

This was the last heard from this submarine.

The Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty Organization, an organization based in Vienna, maintains a network of listening posts, which they use to monitor and listen for nuclear explosions.

They reported that some eight days after the submarine disappeared, they detected an underwater noise approximately 30 nautical miles or 60 kilometers from the last known position of the sub, which had been given at 13:31 GMT or 10:31 local time.

British sailor during the search of the argentine submarine ARA San Juan
British sailor during the search of the argentine submarine ARA San Juan

The Argentinian Navy speculated that it could have been the sound of the submarine imploding. The data returned by Ocean Infinity confirms that the sub imploded. Gabriel Attis, a naval commander, confirmed that the hull was deformed entirely and that there was debris scattered over an area of some 70 meters (229 feet).

Russian Pantera Plus underwater search vehicle being unloaded.Photo: Mil.ru CC BY 4.0
Russian Pantera Plus underwater search vehicle being unloaded.Photo: Mil.ru CC BY 4.0

Relatives of the crew are demanding that the Argentinian government arrange for the wreck to be recovered.

Yolanda Mendiola is the mother of Leandro Cisneros, one of the missing crewmen. She said that the families of the crew had been invited by the Navy to a briefing on the latest developments where the Navy would show them photographs of the wreck.

Argentine and British military personnel during a briefing about the status of ARA San Juan
Argentine and British military personnel during a briefing about the status of ARA San Juan

Ms. Mendiola said that the families were going to demand that the government raise the wreck and recover the remains of their loved ones. She noted that Ocean Infinity had told them that it was possible to raise the remains of the submarine.

AFP News reported that an unidentified officer of the Argentinian Navy said that raising the wreckage to the surface would be an extremely costly exercise as it would be a complex operation.

Hypothetical diagram remains underwater wreck Tr-1700 ARA San Juan (S-42). Photo:Agendagauchajujuy CC BY-SA 4.0
Hypothetical diagram remains underwater wreck Tr-1700 ARA San Juan (S-42). Photo:Agendagauchajujuy CC BY-SA 4.0

The reason for the implosion is unclear, and the families of the crew want an independent investigation into the cause.

This is a mural in honor of the submarine Ara San Juan. It is located in the city of Rosario on Spain Street, Argentina.Photo: César Pérez CC BY-SA 4.0
This is a mural in honor of the submarine Ara San Juan. It is located in the city of Rosario on Spain Street, Argentina.Photo: César Pérez CC BY-SA 4.0

Read another story from us: Life Inside A Submarine: This Museum Offers A Glimpse Of Life Under The Sea

Jorge Villarreal, the father of one crew member, said that they want to search for the truth and now that the submarine had been found, it was the start of a new chapter for them.