The missing Argentine submarine may have been located early this morning, after a US Navy aircraft allegedly detected a ‘heat stain’ from 230ft below the surface, some 185miles from the coast, and a rescue vessel separately reported hearing a sonar signal.
The ARA San Juan was sailing from Ushuaia to Mar del Plata when it disappeared with 44 crew members last Wednesday, including Argentina’s first female submariner Eliana Krawczyk, 35, and Luis Niz, 25, who is due to get married in two weeks time.
The crew’s oxygen supply was due to run out this morning as they only had enough on board to last seven days – leaving the international rescue mission racing against time to the spot where the signals were detected.
The ARA San Juan would have enough oxygen for its crew to survive underwater for seven days, if there was no hull breach, according to officials, a time which would have elapset at 7.30am GMT.
‘The question of oxygen has worried us since the beginning,’ admitted navy spokesman Enrique Balbi. ‘Little by little we enter an increasingly critical phase.’
Experts, however, have said it was possible that the diesel-electric submarine’s oxygen supply might last as many as ten days in the case of a battery failure as reported by the boat’s captain in his last communication.
Capt. Balbi, added: ‘The seven days is not dogmatic. It varies according to the circumstances. As a submariner, I am not losing hope.’
Argentine news report that two separate clues to ARA San Juan’s location have been detected.
A US Navy airplane is said to have recorded ‘a ‘heat stain’, which would correspond to a metal object’, some 186miles off the coast of Puerto Madryn, which could be the ARA San Juan,Clarin.com reports.
The other is a so-called infrasound signal picked up by one of the rescue ships using sonar, the website added.
Hopes were buoyed earlier this week, after brief satellite calls were received and when sounds were detected deep in the South Atlantic. But experts later determined that neither was from the missing sub.
A U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon aircraft spotted white flares, but the Argentine navy said they were unlikely to be from the San Juan, which carried red and green flares. The navy said a life raft that was found in the search area early Tuesday didn’t belong to the submarine and likely fell off another vessel.
Families have gathered at the Naval Base in Mar del Plata as they anxiously await news of their loved ones, who have now been missing for a week.
‘We feel anguish. We are reserved but will not lose our hope that they will return,’ Marcela Moyano, wife of machinist Hernan Rodriguez, told television network TN.
‘We’re very worried, we have little news, we’re waiting for communication,’ said Eduardo Krawczyk, father of weapons officer Ms Krawczyk.
‘We can make up a thousand movies with happy and sad endings, but the reality is that the days pass by and not knowing anything kills you,’ Carlos Mendoza, the brother of submarine officer Fernando Ariel Mendoza said.
‘Every minute is oxygen that’s worth gold.’