The Argentine Navy confirmed early Saturday morning that the missing ARA San Juan submarine which disappeared in the South Atlantic on 15 November a year ago, with a crew of 44, has been found. The discovery was also announced by the Argentine Defense ministry and the United States company, Ocean Infinity, leading the search for the vessel, and it happens exactly one year and one day after all contact was lost with the vessel sailing from Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego to its base in Mar del Plata.
On Thursday, Ocean Infinity – the North American company that was set to suspend its search just 48 hours ago – confirmed that an object, approximately 60 meters long, had been discovered at a depth of 800 meters.
After heading to the site with its vessel, Seabed Constructor, to investigate, the company says it positively identified the object as the ARA San Juan. The Defense Ministry and the Navy confirmed the news via Twitter.
The #MinisterioDeDefensa and the #ArmadaArgentina report that on this day, having investigated the point of interest No. 24 reported by Ocean Infinity, through observation made with a ROV at 800 meters deep, the #AraSanJuan has been positively identified, a post read.
The family members were notified before the news was made public.
The German-built TR-1700 class submarine from the eighties, ARA San Juan triggered a massive air and sea search involving units from thirteen countries, including US, UK, Russia and Chile, but the majority withdrew before the end of 2017, with the missing submarine no closer to being found.
All the while, relatives and family members of the missing 44 crew-members pressured the Navy, the Defense Ministry and the Cabinet to continue the search.
The Argentine Navy has been fiercely criticized for its handling of the operation since first reporting the submarine overdue at Mar del Plata on November 16. It was only several days into the tragedy that Navy officials acknowledged the old, German-built submarine had reported a problem with its batteries in its final communication on November 15. And nearly 10 days later, following on US reports, Argentine Navy officials confirmed there had been an explosion on board, which experts said was likely linked to the battery problem.
Several senior officers were dismissed, including Navy chief Marcelo Srur, and many of the families have expressed anger and disappointment at the government's efforts to find their missing relatives.
Ocean Infinity signed a US$7.5 million contract with the Argentine government to search for the vessel for at least 60 days. However, the firm would only receive the money if the ARA San Juan was found. The firm began its search on September 8.
The big challenge now is to investigate whether the submarine can be raised from its current resting place 800 meters deep. The structural conditions of ARA San Juan at that depth will demand, if possible, a huge effort.