Search For Missing Argentine Submarine Hampered by Weather

Ada Carr
Published: November 20, 2017

An Argentine Navy submarine carrying 44 crew members is still missing after five days, and bad weather could hamper search efforts for the vessel for days to come.

The ARA San Juan was carrying 44 crew members when it went missing off the country’s southern coast on Nov. 15, according to the Associated Press. The Argentine Navy said it sent ships and aircraft to scan the last-known location of the sub, and that it has been scanning all possible radio transmission frequencies to find a sign of the missing vessel. 

Waves up to 20 feet made their mission difficult Sunday and more rough seas are in the forecast for days to come, according to meteorologist Chris Dolce.

"Rough surf conditions will continue to be in place to start this week as strong winds continue," said Dolce. "The winds may slacken some by midweek, reducing the surf temporarily, but another round of potentially stronger winds may arrive late week which would lead to rough seas again."

With weather hampering physical searches, authorities resorted to looking over data from possible satellite calls that were believed to have been made from the sub, NBC News reports. 

But officials announced that the seven short satellite signals thought to be from the missing ship were not from the vessel.

“We analyzed these signals, which as we know were intermittent and weak," Naval Commander Gabriel Galeazzi told NBC. "They could not help determine a point on the map to help the search."

Iridium Communications Inc, a U.S. satellite communications company, was brought in to help with analyzing the calls, reports Reuters. Officials with the company said the calls did not originate with the device aboard the submarine and that they may have come in from equipment belonging to another satellite communications company. 

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The calls lasted between four and 46 seconds, AP reports. 

In the ship’s first few days missing, Argentine Navy spokesman Enrique Balbi told AP that the sub possibly had an electrical issue and that it could not yet be termed “lost.” 

“Without wanting to be alarmist or overdramatic, the facts are that no form of communications could be established between the vessel and its command, even with the alternative methods that the submarine has," said Balbi. “What we interpret is that there must have been a serious problem with the communications (infrastructure) or with the electrical supply, cables, antennae or other (onboard) equipment."

This 2014 photo provided by the Argentina Navy shows the ARA San Juan, a German-built diesel-electric vessel, docked in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
(Argentina Navy via AP)

Chief of the Mar del Plata Naval Base Adm. Gabriel Gonzalez said the sub was equipped with enough food and oxygen. 

“We have a loss of communications; we are not talking of an emergency,” he said. 

The government says the last call detected from the device came in on the same day the ARA San Juan went missing, according to Reuters.

The governments of Chile, the United States and Britain have offered "logistical help and an exchange of information for this humanitarian search,” the Argentine Foreign Ministry said in a statement obtained by AP. It also announced that Argentina is working with officials in neighboring countries in case it needs help finding the submarine.

Saturday U.S. Navy sailors with the Undersea Rescue Command (URC) departed for the area where the ARA San Juan lost communication with the Argentine Navy, according to a release. The crews brought a Submarine Rescue Chamber (SRC) and four aircraft to aid in the search. 

Family members of the missing crew gathered at the Mar del Plata Naval Base Sunday in the hopes of obtaining new information about their loved ones, AP reports. 

"We feel anguish. We are reserved but will not lose our hope that they will return," wife of machinist Hernan Rodriguez Marcela Moyano said in a statement obtained by AP. 

The ARA San Juan was first commissioned in 1985 and was most recently refit in 2014.

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