Argentina finds but can’t retrieve doomed sub
Hours after announcing the discovery of an Argentine submarine lost deep in the Atlantic a year ago with 44 crew members aboard, the government said Saturday that it is unable to recover the vessel, drawing anger from missing sailors’ relatives who demanded that it be raised.
Defense Minister Oscar Aguad said at a press conference that the country lacks “modern technology” capable of “verifying the seabed” to extract the ARA San Juan, which was found 2,975 feet deep in waters off the Valdes Peninsula in Argentine Patagonia.
Earlier in the morning, the navy said a “positive identification” had been made by a remote-operated submersible from the American company Ocean Infinity. The company, commissioned by the Argentine government, began searching for the missing vessel Sept. 7.
It remained unclear what the next steps could be.
In a statement to The Associated Press, Ocean Infinity CEO Oliver Plunkett said authorities would have to determine how to advance. “We would be pleased to assist with a recovery operation but at the moment are focused on completing imaging of the debris field,” he said.
Navy commander Jose Luis Villan urged “prudence,” saying that a federal judge was overseeing the investigation and would be the one to decide whether it was possible to recover a part or the entirety of the ship.
Relatives of crew members were determined to fight for the submarine to be quickly surfaced.
Isabel Polo, sister of crewman Daniel Alejandro Polo, told the AP that the discovery was just the beginning.
She said families need to recover the remains of their loved ones to know what happened and help prevent similar tragedies.
“We do know they can get it out because Ocean Infinity told us they can, that they have equipment,” said Luis Antonio Niz, father of crew member Luis Niz. “If they sent him off, I want them to bring him back to me.”
The sub’s discovery was announced just two days after families of the missing sailors held a one-year commemoration for its disappearance on Nov. 15, 2017. The San Juan was returning to its base in the coastal city of Mar del Plata when contact was lost.
On the anniversary Thursday, President Mauricio Macri said the families of the submariners should not feel alone and delivered an “absolute and non-negotiable commitment” to find “the truth.”
On Saturday, Aguad said that the vessel was found to be in an area that investigators had deemed “most likely.”
Officials showed images of the submarine, which was located on a seabed with its hull totally deformed. Parts of its propellers were buried and debris was scattered up to 230 feet away.
The German-built dieselelectric TR-1700 class submarine was commissioned in the mid-1980s and was most recently refitted between 2008 and 2014. During the $12 million retrofitting, the vessel was cut in half and had its engines and batteries replaced. Experts said refits can be difficult because they involve integrating systems produced by different manufacturers, and even the tiniest mistake during the cutting phase can put the safety of the ship and crew at risk.
The navy said previously the captain reported on
Nov. 15, 2017, that water entered the snorkel and caused one of the sub’s batteries to short-circuit.
The captain later communicated that it had been contained.
Some hours later, an explosion was detected near
Relatives of the crew of the ARA San Juan submarine embrace outside the navy base in Mar del Plata, Argentina, a year after it disappeared with 44 crew members aboard.