Almost a year to the day after its tragic loss at sea, the Argentine Navy submarine ARA San Juan has been located. Using side-scan sonar and autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), the crew of the oceanographic survey vessel Seabed Constructor found the lost sub in the bottom of an undersea ravine about 600 kilometers (approximately 375 miles) east of Comodoro Rivadavia in Argentina’s Patagonia region. The submarine rests at a depth of 920 meters (more than 3,000 feet) below the surface of the South Atlantic—over three times its safe operating depth and well below the crush depth of the sub.
The San Juan was one of only two TR-1700 (or Santa Cruz) class submarines completed for the Argentine Navy by Thyssen Nordseewerke. Built in Germany, the San Juan was delivered in 1984 and underwent a major refit in 2014; other subs intended to be built for the class were put on hold or cancelled, with two unfinished subs cannibalized for parts. Much of the sub’s mission in recent years was focused on surveillance operations in Argentina’s exclusive economic zone in the South Atlantic, primarily to combat illegal fishing.
The announcement of the discovery came only two days after a memorial service held by family members of the crew and a day after the anniversary of the ship’s loss. Recovery operations are pending, awaiting a decision by the Argentine government.