Argentina’s navy has said sounds detected from the bottom of the ocean are not from the submarine which has been missing in rough seas for five days with 44 crew on board.
Spokesman Enrique Balbi said “a biological source” was behind the noises which were picked up by two Argentinian navy ships searching for ARA San Juan and by sonar buoys dropped by a US P8 surveillance plane.
The navy has also revealed the submarine’s last communication, on Wednesday, was to report a mechanical breakdown related to its batteries.
Captain Gabriel Galeazzi, who runs the naval base in Mar del Plata, which was the submarine’s destination, said mechanical problems were not uncommon and rarely posed a risk.
The announcement regarding the noises dashed hopes raised by a CNN report on Monday that stated the sounds could be crew members banging tools against the hull.
“The sounds are not from the submarine and do not correspond to a pattern that could be interpreted as Morse code,” Balbi said.
The five-day search has entered a “critical phase”, the navy said, because the submarine is approaching the probable limit of its oxygen reserves.
Earlier on Monday, Balbi told reporters that although the vessel has enough food and fuel to survive 90 days on the surface, it only had enough oxygen to survive for seven days underwater.
Search continues for #ARASanJuan , waves of up to 10m have hampered progress with conditions easing slightly overnight leading to improved sonar conditions. Aircraft and ships from many nations taking part in this truly multinational air and sea search effort. pic.twitter.com/pNFfOh9S40
— HMS_Protector (@protector_hms) November 20, 2017
Balbi also speculated that the submarine could have already been traveling underwater due to the rough conditions on the surface when it last made contact on Wednesday morning.
The news came on the morning the submarine had been scheduled to arrive at Mar del Plata naval base on its 10-day journey from Argentina’s southernmost city of Ushuaia.
“This phase is critical,” said Balbi. The submarine “should have arrived in Mar del Plata on Sunday or today Monday if the problem had only been a communications breakdown”.
A large number of international ships and aeroplanes, including a British polar exploration vessel, are braving strong winds and six-metre high waves in the area off the coast of Patagonia where the submarine was lost.
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