ARA San Juan, the Argentinian naval submarine that was lost at sea with 44 crew members on board has been finally located after a year-long long search.
Ocean Infinity, a privately-owned American search company with expertise in mapping seabed, found the wreckage on the ocean floor, off the Valdes Peninsula in Argentine Patagonia, some 907 meters below the surface of the Atlantic.
For those who may not know, Ocean Infinity is the same company that failed to find the wreckage of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 that went missing in March 2014.
According to the terms of the contract between Ocean Infinity and the Argentinian government, it was guaranteed a sum of $7.5 million if it managed to find the sub; which it has done and has certainly earned every cent of the guaranteed money.
“This is news that fills us with enormous pain,” Mr. Macri said in a recorded statement Saturday night, announcing three days of national mourning.
“Now we’re opening a period of serious investigations to find out the whole truth,” he said.
Families of the crewmen on board the doomed sub, who had been suffering the agony of not knowing what had happened, can finally look forward to getting the closure they deserve.
But, closure cannot come until the families get to perform the last rites of their loved ones, lying forlorn at the bottom of the ocean for more than a year.
For that to happen the wreckage has to be salvaged and the bodies retrieved, which looks highly unlikely, for now, as the Argentinian government has acknowledged it lacks the technical expertise to recover the sub.
“No, we don’t have the means to go down to that depth of the sea,” Argentinian Defense Minister Oscar Aguad told reporters at a press conference on Saturday.
He said that the concerned authorities “do not have the equipment to bring the submarine out from such a depth.”
Needless to say, the family members of the dead sailors are livid at the inconsiderate attitude of the government and are demanding that the vessel’s retrieval.
Yolanda Mendiola, the mother of missing crewman Leandro Cisneros, 28, said that the relatives of the missing sailors were “destroyed” and that they stood united in their demand to salvage the wreck.
‘We are with the other relatives. They are going to show us the photos. They say that our youngsters are inside,” she said.
“We are all destroyed here,” said the grieving mother.
“If we don’t see it, we can’t have closure. Therefore we’re going to demand that the president (of Argentina) finds a way to get (them) out, because it’s possible, the company said so,” she said.
“If we had a speck of hope, now there is none left,” said Gisela Polo, sister of Esteban Alejandro Polo, 32, one of the 44 who died.
“We’ve seen the images. They described the depth where it was found. It makes no sense to keep talking about him as if he were still alive,” she said.
“We do know they can get it out because Ocean Infinity told us they can, that they have equipment,” said Luis Antonio Niz, father of missing sailor Luis Niz.
“If they sent him off, I want them to bring him back to me,” said the grief-stricken father.
“I still had hopes that they could be alive,” he said.
“Next steps are a matter for the authorities to determine,” Ocean Infinity CEO Oliver Plunkett told CNN.
“We would be pleased to assist with a recovery operation but at the moment are focused on completing imaging of the debris field,” he said.
When the relatives of the missing sailors assembled on Thursday to mourn the anniversary of San Juan’s disappearance, little did they know that Saturday would be the harbinger of the news they had long been waiting for and, at the same time, dreading.
On Nov 15, 2017, the ARA San Juan was returning to base from a routine run to Ushuaia, near the southernmost tip of South America, when its radio went silent – never to come back on again.
It wasn’t long before more than a dozen countries, including teams from the U.S., U.K., Brazil, and Chile, among others, joined the Argentinian navy in the search for the missing submarine but no avail – as we know.
Argentinian officials later revealed that just before contact was lost, the vessel’s commander had called in to report that the engine’s snorkel was taking in water, short-circuiting one of the batteries as a result.
Following the captain’s report, the Navy found evidence of an explosion near the last known location of the vessel, saying that the battery problem caused “a concentration of hydrogen,” which in turn caused the explosion.
A full investigation into the blast, initiated by President Mauricio Macri, revealed gross negligence on the part of navy officials for allowing an unfit vessel to go on an extended mission, leading to the dismissal of the head of the navy.
Ocean Infinity’s reputation of finding sunken wrecks won it a 60-day contract in September, which, ironically, was due to end on the day it found the San Juan – unbelievable!