Captain Enrique Balbi holding a press conference earlier this week. (Télam / José Romero)

According to the Argentine Navy, the eight satellite communications made by the missing submarine ARA San Juan in the hours before it made its last contact were not emergency calls. The details, provided by Navy spokesperson Captain Enrique Balbi, come a day after previously undisclosed records showed that eight calls had been made between 2:11 AM and 08:36 AM on November 15th, when the vessel disappeared.

As such, Balbi sought to downplay the significance of the calls, adding that the list that appeared yesterday featuring data held by Tesacom, a telecommunications company, was incomplete.

Balbi explained at today’s press conference that the communications from the ARA San Juan were “unsuccessful attempts to transmit data through an Internet connection by way of satellite phone and not voice calls. Eventually one of the satellite voice calls made it through to Naval authorities, during which the submarine reported that it intended to submerge deeper to inspect damage to the batteries. Balbi added that the records of the communications had been duly reported to authorities and to Judge Marta Yáñez, who is investigating the events surrounding the missing submarine.

In a situation report sent by radio at 6 AM on the 15th, the submarine reported that it had resolved an issues with its batteries caused by the entry of water through its snorkel, was en route to Mar del Plata and reported that its personnel hadn’t experience any problems.

Late on the 14th of November the submarine first reported by way of a voice call that it had suffered problems with its batteries.

The Argentine Navy distributed this timeline of radio and satellite communications (both voice and data) between the San Juan and its command. (Credit Argentine Navy)
The Argentine Navy distributed this timeline of radio and satellite communications (both voice and data) between the San Juan and its command. (Credit Argentine Navy)

THE SEARCH CONTINUES

Balbi also said that search efforts to find the San Juan, now missing for 21 days, are continuing today with the Russian ship Yantar using its minisubmarines to observe a contact point first spotted by the Chilean Navy at a depth of 940 meters. The Yantar’s minisubmarines can operate at a depth of more than 6,000 meters and the ship is able to resist poor weather conditions due to its technology whereas the second ship working on a separate contact point, the ARA Islas Malvinas, does not have the same technology.

The Argentine ARA Islas Malvinas is carrying the Panther Plus, another submarine that can detect search for objects on the ocean floor. A separate minisubmarine, the CURV-21, operated by the US Navy and carried by the US Navy research vessel Atlantis is expected to join the search soon.

Before Balbi’s press conference President Mauricio Macri referred to the San Juan and said that “what is most important during this moment, which is so painful for all Argentines, particularly the families of the sailors, is that we be respectful of that pain. What I ask of everyone is that we reduce the level of anxiety and today let us prioritize the search and respect the families and give them time.”