BUENOS AIRES – The Argentine navy finds it odd that not a trace has been found of the ARA San Juan, the submarine that went missing last Wednesday with a crew of 44 aboard, and is exercising caution in its search since it has no idea what situation the ship has got into.
“It’s strange that not the slightest trace of it has been detected, no signals like flares... and a lot of uncertainty about signs that could help us find it,” navy spokesman Enrique Balbi said.
The sub sailed last Monday from the southern port of Ushuaia en route to its home base at Mar del Plata, in the southern part of Buenos Aires province, and the last communications from it were received in the early hours Wednesday.
Once a reasonable length of time had passed without further communications, the search protocol was activated on Thursday.
After five days of fruitless hunting, Balbi reported that this type of submarine can remain operational for “90 days” away from its base without any “outside assistance under normal navigating conditions.”
That implies surfacing once every day or two to “take on oxygen and refresh the air inside,” he said on Radio Mitre, adding that if necessary the sub can remain underwater for about seven days, according to studies made in other countries.
For that reason, the navy spokesman said, they are being “very cautious” because as yet they have no idea “what scenario” the sub has encountered.
Search operations, led by the Argentine navy, count on an anti-submarine exploration aircraft and numerous navy ships with helicopters aboard, and the international collaboration of Chile, Brazil, the United States, the UK, Colombia, Uruguay and Peru.
Balbi acknowledged that “the first days were basically spent keeping radio watch,” and from there operations shifted to the rescue phase “with a vast deployment of personnel,” all in the midst of fierce weather conditions that made the search even more difficult.
Meanwhile at Mar del Plata naval base, some 30 families of the crew members have been waiting for news of their loved ones since last Friday.