Almost a year to the day the Argentine Navy’s ARA San Juan went missing it has been reported that the missing submarine has been discovered at rest on the sea bed at a depth of 900m (3,000 feet). On November 15th, 2017 the missing San Juan was the focus of a massive multi-national search and rescue operation that failed to locate the stricken sub.
The Buenos Aires Times reports that Ocean Infinity, a North American seabed exploration company who also took part in the search for lost airliner Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, discovered the submarine after a two month search operation. The discovery was confirmed by Ocean Infinity’s deep sea remotely operated vehicles.
Oliver Plunkett, Ocean Infinity’s CEO, said in a statement on the companies website:
“Our thoughts are with the many families affected by this terrible tragedy. We sincerely hope that locating the resting place of the ARA San Juan will be of some comfort to them at what must be a profoundly difficult time. Furthermore, we hope our work will lead to their questions being answered and lessons learned which help to prevent anything similar from happening again.
We have received a huge amount of help from many parties who we would like to thank. We are particularly grateful to the Argentinian Navy whose constant support and encouragement was invaluable. In addition, the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy, via the UK Ambassador in Buenos Aires, made a very significant contribution. Numerous others, including the US Navy’s Supervisor of Salvage and Diving, have supported us with expert opinion and analysis. Finally, I would like to extend a special thank you to the whole Ocean Infinity team, especially those offshore as well as our project leaders Andy Sherrell and Nick Lambert, who have all worked tirelessly for this result.”
The TR-1700-class diesel-electric submarine was returning to the Mar Del Plata Naval Base when communication was lost. The German-built sub entered service in 1985 and had undergone a mid-life refit between 2008 and 2013. The wreck was discovered approximately 300 miles off the southern coast of Argentina. The San Juan’s wreck has split into a number fragments with her pressure hull imploding, possibly as she exceeded her maximum depth of 300m. Debris from the implosion was reported to be scattered across the seafloor over a 70m area.
The Argentine Navy shared some images of the wreck site:
#ARASanJuan #LaBúsquedaContinúa Actualización: La empresa informó nuevo punto de interés en el Sitio 1 área 15A-4, a 800 mts de profundidad. El punto de interés tiene una dimensión de 60 mts de longitud. Hora de arribo al área para iniciar investigación 19:00 hs aproximadamente. pic.twitter.com/l5k8p8Zjye
— Armada Argentina (@Armada_Arg) November 16, 2018
The loss of the San Juan is the largest loss of life aboard a submarine in over a decade, with the sub’s 44 man crew lost, it exceeds the 20 killed in a fire suppression system accident aboard the Russian submarine K-152 Nerpa in 2008. The San Juan represents the worst loss of life aboard a submarine since the 70 man crew of the Chinese submarine No. 361 suffocated in April 2003.
The 2 boat TR-1700 class originally to have consisted of six boats as part of a 5th generation of Argentine submarines but budget constraints saw only 2 delivered. Only the ARA Santa Cruz remains in service, alongside the older ARA Salta.
The cause of the submarine’s loss is believed to have been a short circuit of the sub’s batteries after water entered its snorkel. San Juan had reported this issue and was heading home for repairs when communications were lost and the sub disappeared. Investigations into the subs loss continue. Ocean Infinity will be rewarded with $7.5 million payment, after fulfilling a no-find, no-fee contract.