BUENOS AIRES – The Argentine government and navy are doing “the impossible” to locate the ARA San Juan, a submarine that disappeared 11 days ago with 44 crewmembers on board who could be in an “extreme survival” situation, according to authorities.
At present, a total of 14 vessels and three aircraft from 13 countries are participating in the search operation, which is being carried out in Atlantic waters between 200 and 1,000 meters (656 and 3,280 feet) deep in the San Jorge Gulf region – 432 kilometers (268 miles) off Argentina’s southern coast – from which the sub sent its last communication before going silent.
In addition, setting out on Sunday was the Norwegian vessel Sophie Siem, which has been modified to carry a US minisubmarine that can descend to a depth of 600 meters and will take a day to reach the search zone.
Weather conditions began to worsen late Saturday and on Sunday high waves and wind up to 60 kph are complicating the search, forcing the departure of the Sophie Siem to be delayed and the Argentine corvette Robinson to return to port.
In the coming hours, authorities hope to dispatch from the southern port of Comodoro Rivadavia one of the two remote controlled submersibles sent by Russia to help with the search.
Argentine Defense Minister Oscar Aguad said from Argentina’s Puerto Belgrano naval base in Buenos Aires province that the Americans and British are saying that the search operation is unprecedented in terms of its technological aspects.
Aguad said in his first public appearance after the sub’s disappearance on Nov. 15 that “none of the (world’s) great powers” have ever launched an operation of this scope, emphasizing the “extraordinary technology” provided by Moscow, which includes the world’s largest aircraft, assorted other equipment and personnel, as well as the unmanned scientific underwater exploration vessel Yantar, due to arrive in early December and which can operate at ocean depths of up to 6,000 meters.
“We have done and are going to continue doing the impossible to find the submarine, and the commitment is that we’re not going to stop the search until we find it,” Aguad said.
This was echoed by Argentine navy spokesman Enrique Balbi, who told the press on Sunday in Buenos Aires that “to date, there is no definite time when the search will be abandoned.”
He also rejected the idea of losing hope for the 44 crewmembers, saying that all must be “respectful” of the families.