By David E. Hubler
Contributor, EDM Digest
The Argentine navy has abandoned attempts to rescue 44 crew members on board a submarine that disappeared two weeks ago, the BBC reported today.
Argentine navy spokesman Capt. Enrique Balbi said the operation to find the ARA San Juan had been “downgraded from a rescue mission to a search for the remains of the vessel,” according to the New York Times.
The diesel-engine submarine was last heard from on November 15, after reporting a loud explosion that was recorded by seismologists in the United States and in Vienna, Austria.
"Despite the magnitude of the efforts made, it has not been possible to locate the submarine," Balbi told reporters. The search for the submarine had been "extended to more than double the number of days that determine the possibilities of rescuing the crew,” he explained.
Naval authorities said the sub had about seven days’ worth of oxygen when it was last heard from. The air supply would have run out on or about November 22.
Balbi said the navy could not confirm the fate of the crew. No evidence of a shipwreck was found in the search area, he added.
Searchers Now Hunting for a ‘Wreck on the Seabed’
Balbi said that the search operation – which involved ships and planes from 13 countries including Brazil, Chile, the United States, Russia and Britain – was now a hunt for a wreck on the seabed.
Earlier this week, the search area was reduced to a 15-square-mile area about 280 miles off Argentina’s southern coast. That’s near where the sub reported an onboard explosion that likely doomed the vessel. Authorities promptly ordered the San Juan back to its Mar del Plata base.
Water entered the snorkel of the ARA San Juan caused a battery to short-circuit before it went missing, Balbi said on Monday, according to the British newspaper The Guardian. “They had to isolate the battery and continue to sail underwater toward Mar del Plata, using another battery,” Balbi explained.