BUENOS AIRES – The Argentine navy said on Wednesday that experts are analyzing a “hydro-acoustic anomaly” detected near the last known location of the submarine ARA San Juan, which has been missing for a week.
The mysterious noise was registered by various monitoring devices on Nov. 15, just three hours after the last radio message from the submarine, Capt. Enrique Balbi told reporters as navy headquarters in Buenos Aires.
The sound was in the vicinity of the vessel’s then-location, 432 kilometers (268 miles) east of the Argentine coast, he said.
“The United States requested (data) from various agencies that work to compile information on different hydro-acoustic events around the world,” the navy spokesman said.
It was based on a review of that data that US officials concluded the noise emanated from a source roughly 30 miles north of the ARA San Juan’s last reported location, Balbi said.
“We are deploying, as we did with the other indications, navy ships that have sonar and sub-aquatic telephone capacity. They will be arriving at night and a (US) P8 (aircraft) is expected to drop sound-buoys,” he said.
A Brazilian plane equipped with sensors that detects “magnetic anomalies” is likewise set to fly over the area, according to the spokesman.
Thirteen nations are assisting Argentina in the search for the submarine.
The Chilean navy vessel Cabo de Hornos is already in the zone and a US Navy undersea rescue team is en route aboard the Skandi Patagonia, a ship belonging to French oil company Total, Balbi said.
Asked whether the noise could have been caused by an explosion, he replied sharply: “It’s a noise. We are not going to make conjectures.”
He acknowledged that worry about the fate of the sub’s 44-member crew is growing as the vessel’s oxygen could be running out.
A retired Argentine navy admiral told EFE earlier Wednesday that he did not expect the submarine to reach its intended destination.
Vice Adm. Antonio Mozzarelli, who inspected the ARA San Juan in 2014 following repairs to the sub, said the failure of the crew to bring the vessel to the surface and launch flares was among a number of negative signs.
The last communication from the ARA San Juan came two days after the submarine left Ushuaia – the world’s southernmost city – for its home port in Mar del Plata, Buenos Aires province.
With the vessel now missing for seven days and 48 hours overdue in Mar del Plata, “all that is left is to look and to wait to learn what happened,” Mozzarelli said.
“It’s a submarine that is designed to spend 70 days in continuous submersion,” he said. “It’s true that they have seven days if they don’t renew the air, but inside they have (oxygen) canisters and capsules that would give them more time.”