Argentina navy probing 'contact' in search for missing sub


Buenos Aires (AFP)

Argentina's navy on Saturday was investigating a "contact" detected at 477 meters (1565 feet) under the ocean as an international search continued for a submarine that disappeared more two weeks ago with 44 crewmembers on board.

Navy spokesman Enrique Balbi did not specify what type of "contact" was being examined but said equipment was currently being calibrated underwater "to access that depth during the day and visualize" the area.

The Navy is also inspecting three other "contacts" -- a term describing signals that would indicate an area search teams should investigate for the lost ARA San Juan submarine.

The Clarin newspaper, citing unidentified naval sources, described that something "white" with "an elongated shape" was found on the seabed, with dimensions approximately 62 meters long and 13 meters high.

The paper noted that the lost vessel measures 65.93 meters long by 15.3 meters high.

On Thursday authorities formally ended the search for survivors, shifting its mission from rescue to recovery.

"The extreme environment, the time elapsed, and the lack of any evidence prevent sustaining a scenario compatible with human life," Balbi said Saturday.

The navy's final contact with the ARA San Juan, a 34-year-old German-built diesel-electric sub, came on November 15, when it was sailing in the South Atlantic 450 kilometers (280 miles) from the coast.

In its final communication, the submarine reported it had overcome a mechanical breakdown that resulted from a short circuit due to the entry of water via the vessel's snorkel.

Three hours later, a noise similar to an explosion was recorded 48 kilometers from where the crew had given its last report.

The position was in line with the planned path the submarine would have taken to reach its base in Mar del Plata, the navy has said.

An international armada of rescue ships backed by aircraft -- and thousands of personnel -- has been hunting for the submarine.