Seven failed satellite calls were detected on Saturday that Argentina’s defence ministry believes could be from submarine that went missing in the south Atlantic three days ago with 44 crew on board.
The attempts – which lasted between four and 36 seconds – “indicate that the crew is trying to re-establish contact” after communications were lost on Wednesday said the navy. The defence ministry said it was working on tracing the location of the calls with an unnamed US company that specialised in satellite communications.
It was not immediately clear what type of calls the ARA San Juan submarine might have tried to make but submarines that are stricken underwater can float a location beacon known as an emergency position indicator radio beacon (EPIRB) to the surface that can then emit emergency signals via satellite.
Earlier on Saturday, navy spokesman Enrique Balbi said the area being searched off the country’s southern Atlantic coast has been doubled as concerns about the fate of the submarine and its crew grew. “We are not discounting any hypothesis,” Balbi said, adding that possibilities to explain the submarine’s disappearance include “a problem with communications” or with its power system..
Argentina has begun preparing for an underwater rescue while an international effort has also started to locate the missing vessel.
The Argentinian navy lost radio contact with the San Juan after its last scheduled transmission on Wednesday morning. It was on a 10-day voyage from Argentina’s southernmost port of Ushuaia to the naval base at Mar del Plata, 400km (250 miles) south of Buenos Aires.
The international search team includes the US and UK. A British Hercules plane from the nearby Falkland Islands, which Argentina claims as Las Malvinas, will be joining the search, Argentinian authorities confirmed.
The Falkland Islands issued a statement Saturday supporting Argentina in its search. “We understand that the British government has offered the assistance of the British armed forces in the search, and that it has joined an international effort which also includes the United States. The Falkland Islands government extends its sincere hope that the submarine is found swiftly,” the statement said.
Argentina’s navy said it was not sure what happened to the submarine or why it lost contact but that it was now convinced the ship was beneath the surface and not adrift on choppy seas, as was previously thought.
“At this point in the search and rescue mission we can’t discard any hypothesis,” said Mar del Plata naval base chief Gabriel González. “We haven’t been able to locate the submarine on the surface, that is why we are now giving priority to the search for the sunken submarine,” González said on Saturday.
“An underwater search is much more complicated because it requires the use of more technology including sonar,” the officer added.