Latin America & Caribbean

Argentina sub: ARA San Juan relatives to crowdfund new search

children with poster showing a photo of a man, with lettering in Spanish Image copyright Reuters
Image caption "Uncle, we are waiting for you" reads these children's poster

Relatives of the 44 crew members of a lost Argentine submarine have begun raising funds to search for it privately.

The navy called off its rescue mission for the ARA San Juan in December, two weeks after it went missing.

Relatives have opened an account and asked for the public to donate.

No trace of the vessel has been found despite extensive searching underwater and by air. All those who were on board are presumed dead.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption The vessel was the newest of the three submarines in the Argentine navy's fleet

They were understood to have had air for no more than 10 days.

The navy stopped its rescue mission two weeks after the sub's disappearance saying there was no longer hope of finding any survivors.

The search for the missing vessel and the bodies of the crew continued but with a reduced number of ships.

"We want to keep looking, we are not going to stop," relatives said in a statement.

"We are looking for the truth and you can accompany us. With a small donation we will take a big step. Help us."

The families of the crew members have long expressed dissatisfaction with the navy's handling of the aftermath of the sub's disappearance.

At the time, some said they did not believe the official version of events, while others said they needed to find the bodies of their loved ones in order to be able to grieve.

Some relatives suggested the submarine, which was 34 years old, had been in a bad state of repair. The Argentine navy said it had passed system safety checks and President Mauricio Macri said it had been "in perfect condition".

More than a dozen countries helped with the official search and 4,000 personnel were deployed.

Earlier this month the Argentine government announced it would offer $4.9m (£3.5m) for information that led to the submarine being found.

What happened to the submarine?

The ARA San Juan, a navy vessel, was returning from a routine mission to Ushuaia, near the southernmost tip of South America, when it reported an "electrical breakdown".

According to naval commander Gabriel Galeazzi, the submarine surfaced and reported what was described as a "short circuit" in the vessel's batteries.

ARA San Juan submarine

Missing since 15 November

  • Built in Germany: 1983

  • Length: 66 metres

  • Crew: 44

  • Top speed: 45 km/h

  • Range: 22,224 km


The sub was ordered back to base but disappeared.

The Argentine navy's last contact with the vessel was at approximately 07:30 (10:30 GMT) on 15 November 2017, at which point its captain reportedly confirmed that the crew were well.

Eight days after the sub vanished, the Vienna-based Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty Organisation said that it had detected a noise a few hours after the sub's last contact, about 30 nautical miles (60km) north of the vessel's last-known position.

The Argentine navy said this could have been the sound of the submarine imploding.

Who was on board?

The submarine, with its 44 crew, set off under the command of Pedro Martín Fernández.

Forty-three of the crew were men but there was also one woman, Eliana María Krawczyk. The 35-year-old was the first female officer in Argentina to serve on a submarine.

The rest of the crew were submariners of varying ages and experience.

Submarine tragedies

Accidents involving submarines are rare. Here are some of the most serious:

  • All 70 crew aboard China's Great Wall Ming-class submarine suffocated in 2003 when a diesel engine malfunctioned, consuming the vessel's oxygen supply
  • Russia's Kursk submarine sank in the Barents Sea in 2000 after a torpedo exploded during an exercise, killing all 118 on board, including 23 who survived the blast but died due to a lack of oxygen
  • The USS Scorpion sank in the Atlantic in 1968, possibly because a torpedo exploded, killing the 99 crew
  • The USS Thresher sank during diving tests in 1963, killing all 129 on board - the biggest submarine death toll in history

More on this story