Argentina’s Submarine Disaster

Written by: Ilana Friedman

A year ago, the unthinkable happened to civilians of Argentina. Forty-four families lost their loved ones, and received no answers to what may have caused the mysterious accident that the ARA San Juan Submarine suffered.  On November 15th of 2017, officials in Argentia lost radio contact with the submarine, due to extreme weather, and were unable to locate it in the following months.This past week, the submarine was found at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean and forty-four families received the answers they were looking for. 

On September 8th, 2018, a team of 40 members set on sail to look for the missing submarine. After two months of searching, the team came across indications of what seemed to be a 60-meter-long wreckage. Their hopes were not high as they had already studied around two dozen of other possible indications of the missing sub, all of which turned out to be false leads. The ARA San Juan was found at a depth of 800 meters, on the seafloor. After the Submarine was found, the President, Mauricio Macri, declared a three-day mourning period to grieve the loss of the crew members. The crew determined the sub was the ARA San Juan that had gone missing. This left the families in frustration wondering why the submarine had gone under in the first place. 

After finding the ARA San Juan, the bodies were unable to be recovered. It was determined the sinking of the sub was due to a leak of water that caused a mechanical explosion and made the power go out within the sub. Due to the explosion, bodies were unable to be recovered. 

Prior to sending submarines and flights out, contracts should be pre-signed with the government and the company operating the machinery to ensure that if the flight or submarine were to go missing, a search would automatically be enacted. This way the families do not need to harass the government to sign a search agreement. With this plan implemented more reassurance will be given to the families who send their loved ones on these trips that, if anything were to happen, families would feel better about these excursions. 

The Argentinian government signed an agreement with Ocean Infinity, a seabed exploration company,  for $7.5 million if they find the submarine, which they did. Based on the location of the submarine and the state of debris, it was concluded an implosion caused by the high pressure from the depth of the ocean contributed to the sinking of the sub. When conducting searches, Ocean Infinity has the highest grade technology and used Autonomous Underwater Vehicles that are capable of operating in depths of 5 meters to 6000 meters, which allows them to collect higher quality data from their searches.

Ocean Infinity struck a similar deal with the Malaysian government after Malaysia Airlines flight 370 disappeared with 239 people on board in March of 2014. In both cases, the families were disappointed with the inactions of their respective governments, and forced their respective governments to strike deals with Ocean Infinity, by protesting, calling, and writing officials, in order to solve the mysteries. After the events of the missing airline and missing submarine, more needs to be done to prevent accidents like this in the future, or prevent families from having to force governments to strike up deals on their own. Governments need to be better prepared in the case of an emergency such as a sinking submarine. The government should be prepared to strike a deal with a search company, or have one written up prior to the beginning of the exploration.