Bethany Montgomery, Managing Editor
On Wednesday, Nov. 15, the Argentine diesel-electric submarine, ARA San Juan disappeared off the southern tip of South America. According to the Washington Post, what started as a routine mission quickly became critical emergency as the over-thirty-year-old submarine ceased to send any sort of radio frequencies. Since Wednesday, Argentine authorities and a number of international rescuers have combed through all radio signals and ocean surrounding the submarine’s last known location. Although Argentina has logistical assistance from Chile, the U.S. (including NASA) and the U.K., searching has proved difficult, especially for the search-and-rescue ships facing rough seas and high winds. The sub and its 44 crew members have enough food and oxygen to last a decent amount of time, but typical emergency procedure dictates that the sub surfaces during a communication blackout. Since they have not done so or have yet to be sited, authorities are scrambling to located the vessel in case a more serious emergency has occurred. Family members of the missing crew have been anxiously waiting at the submarine’s base for any new developments, but are faced with the possibility of an unconcluded fate for both the submarine and its passengers. Native to Argentina himself, Pope Francis sent a kind message to these members on Saturday, assuring them of many supportive prayers.
Submarine disappearances are not a new phenomenon and have often sparked conspiracies with their mysterious vanishings over the last several decades. In 1968, the USS Scorpion sank inexplicably in the Atlantic, taking with it 99 crew members and two nuclear torpedoes. Although the Navy has scanned the surrounding water for radioactivity, the wreckage has yet to be investigated. In 2000, a Russian nuclear submarine sank unnoticed during a military exercise. After analyzing the mysterious sinking, the Russian authorities ruled that it was likely an unstable hydrogen peroxide propellant that caused a torpedo to denote and start a chain reaction of catastrophic events. Tragically, the sub took down 188 crew members, most of whom are thought to have died in the initial blast, but as the submarine sank.
Such cruel fate for the San Juan has not yet been discovered, but the search continues as a loss of the submarine is both incredibly expensive and tragic for the families involved. Authorities are optimistic for the time being, but are also braced for possibly a much darker reality.