The Ministry of Defense of Argentina released a more detailed timeline for their missing submarine on Tuesday. The military said that the captain of the vessel reported that water had entered thru the ship’s snorkel causing a battery to short-circuit before an explosion-like anomaly was detected underwater 10 hours later near the ship’s last known location.

Ships and aircraft from several countries including the US are still are searching the South Atlantic for the ARA San Juan and its 44 crew members, which disappeared November 15 a few hundred kilometers off Argentina’s coast. It was US seismic sensors that reported an explosion-like anomaly in the area near the sub’s location.

November 15, 12:30 a.m.: The sub’s captain calls his land-based commander by satellite phone, saying that seawater has entered the vessel’s “snorkel,” a tube that reaches the surface to refresh the vessel’s air and recharge the batteries. He says the water caused a short-circuit in the battery system in the vessel’s bow and the beginnings of a fire, or smoke. The smoke was put out and the short-circuited system was isolated.


The captain indicates that the battery- and diesel-powered sub would continue traveling with its stern batteries.

6 a.m.: The captain types the same message and relays it to base electronically, as is protocol following a phone conversation.

7:30 a.m.: The captain calls base again, this time to say that the vessel is traveling, submerged, as planned, without any personnel problems.

10:31 a.m.: A sound consistent with an explosion is detected in the ocean, near the sub’s last known location.

The submarine would have enough air to stay submerged for 7-10 days if it had remained intact after an initial problem. Had the sub surfaced to recharge batteries, it would have bought the crew more time.

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Photo courtesy Argentina Ministry of Defense