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Argentina Navy finds lost submarine that sank in 2017 with 44 crew members

Submarine San Juan, Buenos Aires naval dock, May 2017 (Juan Kulichevsky/Wikimedia Commons)
November 21, 2018

On Nov. 15, 2017, the ARA San Juan submarine vanished with a crew of 44 aboard, but the Argentina Navy announced on Saturday that the vessel had been recovered.

The ARA San Juan was a German-built diesel-electric TR-1700 class submarine that was custom-made in the mid-1980s, Fox News reported. The sub was on its way back to its Mar de Plata base when contact was lost.

According to an Argentina Navy statement, the submarine was found in waters that exceeded 2,600 feet from the Valdes Peninsula in Argentine Patagonia.

The U.S., in conjunction with other countries, helped conduct an international search operation to locate the submarine, which began on Sept. 7, according to Business Insider.

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A positive ID was made confirming that the sub was indeed the ARA San Juan, which came a few days after families of the missing crew held a one-year commemoration.

During the ceremony, Argentinian President Mauricio Macri announced three days of morning and vowed that he would find out “the truth” about the submarine.

No information has been given about the missing crew.

Several photos were taken, of which the Argentina Navy began to release on Sunday, showing the submarine on the floor under 2,975 feet of water.

Another photo confirmed the submarine by the 33 mm steel forward section of the hull, which was 82-foot-long and 23-foot-wide.

While that section was discovered in one piece, water pressure had seriously warped it.

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“It is the habitable sector where the batteries and all the systems and equipment that the submarine has are found,” the Argentina Navy said.

In the final communication that the sub had, the captain said that a battery had short-circuited after water entered through a snorkel, but he said it was controlled.

Ocean Infinity, who conducted the search, said they also found the aft section with the propeller and the mast of the submarine.

Argentina Navy spokesman Enrique Balbi said the sub’s wreckage was strewn over a 262-foot-by-328-foot area, leaving officials to speculate that the sub may have failed from extreme water pressure that the hull couldn’t handle.

The location of the sub was near the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization. Officials said that on the day of the sub’s final fate, two of its hydroacoustic stations “detected an unusual signal” near the sub’s last known location.

According to the Argentina Navy, a sound similar to that of an explosion may have been the result of a “concentration of hydrogen,” caused by the earlier reported battery issue.

Shortly after the discovery of the lost sub, Defense Minister Oscar Aguad said Argentina lacks “modern technology” that could “verify the seabed” and would not have the resources to recover the lost sub.

Challenges to recovering the sub — and adding to the expense of a potential recovery effort — include poor visibility in the water from saline and turbulence, and the distance of the sub from the coast.

Families of the lost crew were outraged when they heard the sub was unable to be recovered.

Luis Antonio Niz, father of crew member Luis Niz, said, “We do know they can get it out because Ocean Infinity told us they can, that they have equipment. If they sent him off, I want them to bring him back to me.”

Argentina Navy spokesman Rodolfo Ramallo said, “Now another chapter opens. From the analysis of the state in which the submarine has been found, we will see how to proceed.”