An Argentine submarine that vanished from radars over a year ago in the South Atlantic has been found, the Argentine Navy confirmed today. The ARA San Juan was on a routine exercise with 44 souls on board when she last made contact, after reporting technical problems. With only seven days worth of oxygen on board, a frantic international rescue mission was lunched, which solemnly turned into a search operation once the week had passed.
The submarine underwent its half-life service in 2008, a procedure that involved cutting the sub in half to replace batteries and engines. Taking longer than usual due to budget restraints, she re-entered the water in 2013. Four years later, while conducting the routine exercise, the captain reported a leak from the snorkel, the highest point on a submarine designed to take in air when the rest of the body lies beneath the surface. The leak ignited a fire within the forward batteries, which was soon extinguished but left the sub running on spares. This report came on the 15th November 2017.
On the 23rd of the same month, a nuclear listening station based in Vienna revealed that they had picked up acoustics of an explosion around the same location and time the sub made her final broadcast. By early 2018 the multi-national search team had dwindled to just one, Argentina. The government issued a reward for the location of the presumed sunken submarine and US seabed survey specialists Ocean Infinity responded, commencing their search in September of this year.
Our team have been working hard in the South Atlantic searching for ARA San Juan for nearly two months. During that time we've covered a huge area. Everyone involved remains focused and determined to succeed. pic.twitter.com/rOq70RUrc0
— Ocean Infinity (@Ocean__Infinity) October 30, 2018
Ocean Infinity Find
After just two months of active searching, Ocean Infinity yielded results. Only one day after the anniversary of the disappearance, which was marked by an emotional vigil held by the friends and family of the missing forty-four on board, the Navy confirmed via twitter that the private company had made a ‘positive identification’ of the vessel, lying broken at 800m beneath the surface, just thirty nautical miles from where she last made contact.
El #MinisterioDeDefensa y la #ArmadaArgentina informan que en el día de la fecha, habiéndose investigado el punto de interés N°24 informado por Ocean Infinity, mediante la observación realizada con un ROV a 800 mts de profundidad, se ha dado identificación positiva al #AraSanJuan
— Armada Argentina (@Armada_Arg) November 17, 2018
Rewards and Repatriation
Yes. If you look at the upper end of the long object on the left, you will see three of the sub’s four tail fins. They are also the only objects that do not point straight up. Rocks don’t form that way, or on the upper portion of a gully. #ARASanJuan pic.twitter.com/rAdIBix19b
— Mike Chillit (@MikeChillit) November 17, 2018
From the few photos that have been released, ARA San Juan appears to be broken up on a canyon wall. Although the find has been labeled a ‘Category C’, meaning the likelihood of the wreck being the San Juan is probable, but not conclusive, the pictures correspond to the explosion reported leaving the Argentine Navy with no doubts.
It has not yet been confirmed whether the sub is salvageable or indeed if anything remains of the 44 submariners on board. Ocean Infinity will now collect the $7.5m reward while the families and partners wait with baited breath, eager to find out if there is anything remaining of their lost loved ones to put to rest.