MercoPress, en Español

Montevideo, May 26th 2024 - 14:38 UTC



Argentine navy reveals water entered the submarine's snorkel causing battery short circuit

Tuesday, November 28th 2017 - 06:13 UTC
Full article 34 comments

Water entered the snorkel of the Argentine submarine ARA San Juan, causing its battery to short-circuit before it went missing November 15, a navy spokesman said on Monday as hope dwindled among some families of the 44-member crew. Read full article


Disclaimer & comment rules
  • golfcronie

    Why only now mention this? If this is true they ( Argentina) should have sent a ship to rescue them.What an unholy cockup fit for Argentina only

    Nov 28th, 2017 - 09:55 am - Link - Report abuse +2
  • darragh

    I don't understand this although I accept the fact that I am not an expert in submarines but surely if one of the batteries was contaminated with seawater then she should have surfaced not continued on submerged and why is this only coming out now or do I smell some arse-covering and a 'let's blame the captain because he can't answer back' scenario starting to develope

    Nov 28th, 2017 - 10:48 am - Link - Report abuse +5
  • Brit Bob

    A little slow coming forward with information while other rumours festered -the deputy of the Mercosur Parliament for Argentina, Alejandro Karlen said that different hypotheses, including the possibility of a British attack on the Argentine ship would be investigated. ( 23 Nov).

    Nov 28th, 2017 - 11:12 am - Link - Report abuse +3
  • ElaineB

    It came out I think towards the end of the first week of the disaster that the submarine crew had reported a problem with a battery in their last communication. Armed with that information it is extraordinary that misleading and fudged information was put out. They must have known this was the likely cause of the sub being in trouble and they also had a clear location of the last known position and the likely course the vessel would have been taking. So whilst we can all appreciate that incidents happen and submariners know the risks, the handling of the crisis has been chaotic at best.

    What an absolute shame that these deaths are being played like a political football with no thought to the added pain it causes the families of those lost.

    Nov 28th, 2017 - 11:23 am - Link - Report abuse +8
  • shackleton

    According to maps published in the media it sailed very close to West Falkland, which to me does not seem the most logical or shortest distance. Was it snooping?

    Nov 28th, 2017 - 01:09 pm - Link - Report abuse +1
  • Marti Llazo

    Seems to be some continuing miscommunication. English language media are talking about “a battery” when it seems as though a bank of batteries was affected. Remember we are talking about 960 very large batteries, divided into functional groups so that a faulty group can be isolated. The message discussion of “ barra de baterias” suggests a bus bar that connects a battery group. What is curious is that after the fault, the submarine continued its travel submerged rather than on the surface. Possibly the sea surface conditions were too rough.

    Original message text released to media:

    “Ingreso de agua de mar por sistema de ventilación al tanque de baterías N°3 ocasionó cortocircuito y principio de incendio en el balcón de barras de baterías. Baterías de proa fuera de servicio. Al momento en inmersión propulsando con circuito dividido....”

    Nov 28th, 2017 - 02:02 pm - Link - Report abuse +3
  • The Voice

    The batteries are in the bilges, it must have taken on quite a lot of water to short out the batteries which couldnt easily be pumped out. The weight of the water probably adversely affected buoyancy and the subs ability to surface too.

    Nov 28th, 2017 - 02:42 pm - Link - Report abuse +1
  • darragh

    The Voice

    Clearly you know more about submarines than I do, so how would they be able to take on that amount of water through the snorkel, surely there would be some sort of automatic shut off valve inside the hull to stop that sort of thing happening. Surely the technology for such a valve would be foolproof by 1983, equally would there be no way of 'pumping out' the bilges, emergency compressed air or something or am I talking out of my backside?

    Nov 28th, 2017 - 03:26 pm - Link - Report abuse +1
  • Marti Llazo

    The batteries are indeed located in the lower sections of the hull, using their mass for the ballast value, but not really in the bilges per se. This allows a certain amount of water to enter the true bilge compartments without submerging the batteries.

    This illustration is notional and doesn't reflect the same model submarine, but it shows the typical elements of the battery compartments and the system for extracting hazardous gases. This is from much earlier designs but some of the same concepts for gas extraction still apply in lead-acid battery banks in more modern diesel-electric submarines.

    I can only post one html image link so I can't show typical bilge clearance control system here.

    Nov 28th, 2017 - 04:38 pm - Link - Report abuse +4
  • The Voice

    Darragh, I dont know. There was a very heavy sea and I wonder if that interfered with the action of the shut off valve, or even if the snorkel mast was bent broken or jammed? There must have been a very large ingress of water to swamp the batteries and were the pumps incapapable of pumping the remainder due to lack of battery power. Who knows?

    Nov 28th, 2017 - 05:01 pm - Link - Report abuse +1
  • Enrique Massot

    The news about the short caused by seawater entering the submarine was contained in the last message sent by the sub's commandant on Nov. 15. The message was leaked to a TV channel and had to be acknowledged by spokesperson Enrique Balbi. The message also stated that the short had started a fire--“principio de incendio” which Balbi defined as “smoke without flame.”

    In any event, the leak revealed the Navy was giving incomplete information at the beginning of this tragic saga, which Clarin summarized as “Submarino ARA San Juan: The fire that the Navy had denied revealed 13 days after.”

    The Navy's reaction? They are going to look for the leakers and sanction them.

    On the other hand, there is no information on action against those who withheld information or any investigation on whether proper action was taken as soon as the Nov. 15 was received.

    Nov 28th, 2017 - 05:25 pm - Link - Report abuse +1
  • golfcronie

    I hate to mention this but it smacks of people covering their arses.The more information put out only muddies the water.

    Nov 28th, 2017 - 05:57 pm - Link - Report abuse +3
  • pgerman

    A brief list of INFORMED submarine incidents after WWII:

    HMS Affray. In April 1951 the Royal Navy submarine, HMS Affray, sank whilst on a training exercise in the English Channel with the loss of 75 lives.

    USS Thresher (SSN-593) American vessel lost at sea in April, 1963 after during deep diving tests, causing 129 deaths.

    INS Dakar (77-y). Israeli navy submarine lost at sea in January, 1968 on his first trip with israeli crew causing 69 deaths.

    USS Scorpion (SSN-589). The American navy submarine sinks in June 1968, leading to the death of its entire 99 man crew.

    French submarine, the Eurydice, sinks on March 4, 1970 with 57 crew off St. Tropez in the Mediterranean Sea.

    Soviet submarine K-431 On Aug 10, 1985, an explosion on board a Russian submarine at Chazma Bay, kills 10 crew and causes 49 other people to suffer radiation injuries.

    BAP Pacocha (SS-48) a peruvian submarine; on 22 August 1988, lost in the Pacific Ocean after being accidentally collided by the Japanese ship Kiowa Maru killing 8 people.

    Russia's Kursk K-141 nuclear submarine went down in the Barents Sea after suffering a catastrophic explosion during naval exercises on 12 August, 2000. 112 sailors lost.

    HMS Trafalgar, November 2002. The Royal Navy’s submarine runs aground close to Skye, causing £5 million worth of damage to the boat and injuring three sailors.

    Nov 28th, 2017 - 06:37 pm - Link - Report abuse -6
  • Marti Llazo

    Well, page-boy, it looks like Argentina has set the record for the first loss of a post-war German diesel-electric submarine, and the record for losing a submarine with the least number of operational hours since mid-life upgrade. Congratulations !

    Nov 28th, 2017 - 06:48 pm - Link - Report abuse +5
  • golfcronie

    pgerman. And they all sent out misinformation did they?

    Nov 28th, 2017 - 06:55 pm - Link - Report abuse +4
  • Zaphod Beeblebrox

    Maybe they were overcharging the batteries while running submerged with the snorkel and produced hydrogen which exploded?

    Sub instructions clearly say extra care must be taken when charging batteries above their gassing voltage and running with a snorkel does not seem to meet the ventilation requirements to me:

    This seems most likely to me, given the available evidence: They were using a snorkel and an explosion was heard. I don't think a damaged snorkel would be sufficient to affect the buoyancy of the boat and chlorine production by ingress of sea water AND damaged battery cells would not be catastrophic and could be resolved by the crew (as witnessed in Das Boot).

    Nov 28th, 2017 - 07:35 pm - Link - Report abuse +3
  • Chicureo

    Yes, your extensive list of submarine disasters include some examples of naval incompetence resulting in the deaths of hundreds of sailors. Perhaps even unforgivable government expedience in rushing design and construction as in the case of the USS Thresher.
    However, tell us señor expert engineer, give us ONE example attributed to wholesale greed, theft and corruption as this Kirchnerism murder has become obviously fact.
    Your contribution to any intelligent thoughts to this thread are worthless.

    Nov 28th, 2017 - 08:05 pm - Link - Report abuse +5
  • Clyde15

    I replied to VERNET on 25 November on the article
    “Macri promises the truth about what happened with the missing submarine”
    You obviously missed it.

    Vernet said:- “Want me to list the accidents and loss of lives of the Royal Navy? ”
    My reply:-
    I checked on R.N. Submarine losses to save you the bother.

    HMS Sidon 16 June 1955 Sank in Portland Harbour after torpedo explosion in tube.
    12 fatalities 62 years ago

    HMS Artemis 1 July 1971 Sank in Portsmouth Harbour. No fatalities

    No further sinkings in 46 years

    Neither of these happened when the vessel was on the high seas.

    What do you mean by “informed” ? I take this to mean that there were many more which have been “hushed up”. If this IS what you mean then maybe you could inform us of the incidents and where we could verify this information.

    Nov 28th, 2017 - 09:53 pm - Link - Report abuse +5
  • Bubba

    Refitted with Chinese batteries...

    Nov 28th, 2017 - 10:42 pm - Link - Report abuse +2
  • Marti Llazo

    @bubba “...chinese batteries...”

    Worse. As commented previously, these were remanufactured by the argentines, and then re-certified not by the battery OEM but by.... an argentine auto-battery shop. The argentine shipyard claims that its personnel were instructed by the battery manufacturer, Varta, but Varta apparently was not involved in re-certifying the rebuilt batteries, which has resulted in considerable and well-founded suspicion.

    Nov 29th, 2017 - 12:37 am - Link - Report abuse +4
  • Rufus

    One submarine loss that PGerman misses off of his list, but might be pertinent is USS Cochino - which was lost as the result of two battery explosions (they got caught in a polar gale off of the coast of Norway, which dislodged the batteries, causing an electrical fire and explosion. They managed to almost get it under control over the course of 16 hours on the surface until a second explosion wrecked it).

    INS Dakar (ex-HMS Totem) is an interesting one, even having found the wreckage and its extensive examination didn't reveal a reason why it suddenly dived to below crush depth. The theory that it was the first time it had sailed without it's totem pole (the original was a gift from the Cowichan Tribes, or the replacement that was installed rather than risk a mutiny when the original was lost in the yard during a refit) has as much evidence as any other theory.

    Nov 29th, 2017 - 01:09 pm - Link - Report abuse +2
  • Chicureo

    I googled the INS Dakar and found the backstory amazing. Lots of mystery, intrigue and cover ups. Thanks

    Nov 29th, 2017 - 05:39 pm - Link - Report abuse +1
  • shackleton

    Was this the article you read..? Very interesting and possibly relevant.

    Nov 29th, 2017 - 07:29 pm - Link - Report abuse +1
  • imoyaro

    “On the other hand, there is no information on action against those who withheld information or any investigation on whether proper action was taken as soon as the Nov. 15 was received.”

    They are all, including the chief of the navy, Srur, Kirchnerite appointees. I bet they will all be cashiered.... :)

    Nov 30th, 2017 - 10:13 am - Link - Report abuse +1
  • golfcronie

    Argentina has confirmed that all are lost at sea, no possibility of the crew surviving.

    Nov 30th, 2017 - 10:42 pm - Link - Report abuse +2
  • Chicureo

    Dec 03rd, 2017 - 01:01 am - Link - Report abuse +1
  • Marti Llazo

    Further indications that the argie navy may not be telling all it knows, and when it knew it:

    The “blurry image” that the Russian vessel detected in the search area turned out to be a sunken fishing boat.

    Dec 03rd, 2017 - 02:16 pm - Link - Report abuse +1
  • Chicureo

    ”Curiouser and curiouser!”

    Dec 03rd, 2017 - 04:49 pm - Link - Report abuse 0
  • Marti Llazo


    And it's going to get curiouser still when some of the cats get out of the bag. The judge in one of the investigations is asking embarrassing questions.

    Dec 03rd, 2017 - 06:04 pm - Link - Report abuse 0
  • Chicureo

    Besides the long standing problem of corruption, Argentina has always mystified us here in Chile why their army, navy and air force each operate separate bases in Antarctica. Understanding their military is an enigma.

    Dec 03rd, 2017 - 07:31 pm - Link - Report abuse +1
  • Marti Llazo

    The real question is what is Argentina doing in British Antarctic Territory in the first place. The Spanish didn't give it to them, it's not on their “continental shelf” and there was no murdering Vernet there. It's a simple matter of attempted theft on part of the argies, an attempted theft while the owners were away fighting the Axis.

    Dec 03rd, 2017 - 09:23 pm - Link - Report abuse +1
  • Chicureo

    Those thieving Argentines! Obviously it's Territorio Chileno Antártico.

    Dec 03rd, 2017 - 11:10 pm - Link - Report abuse 0
  • The Voice

    Marti, the Argies are simply in our territory because they want to be near our Post Office. Its run by females....

    Dec 04th, 2017 - 10:10 pm - Link - Report abuse 0
  • Marti Llazo

    Seems as though there was some argie navy awareness of this leaky snorkel problem

    Dec 05th, 2017 - 03:45 am - Link - Report abuse 0

Commenting for this story is now closed.
If you have a Facebook account, become a fan and comment on our Facebook Page!