The last communication from the missing Argentine submarine ARA San Juan revealed a leak of sea water had caused a short circuit and “the beginnings of a fire” in the batteries, according to a copy of the message published by Argentine television.
“Entry of sea water through the ventilation system into battery tank No. 3 caused a short circuit and the beginnings of a fire in the battery room. Bow batteries out of service. At the moment in immersion propelling with split circuit. No updates on personnel, will keep informed,” the document obtained by the channel A24 said.
The message was purportedly sent by the commander of the ARA San Juan by radio and received as a transcription. A24 did not say how it had obtained the document, on which the Argentine Navy has not commented.
The communication appears to contradict some of the information released by the Navy. It was sent at 8.52am on the morning of the sub’s disappearance on Wednesday, November 15, while the authorities have said the vessel’s last message was received at 7.30am.
Search and rescue mission for Argentinian submarine
It also goes into greater detail regarding the faults allegedly suffered by the ARA San Juan. The Navy waited five days to confirm rumours the submarine had suffered a battery fault, and then insisted it was unrelated to the disappearance.
On Monday, before the leaked document was broadcast, Captain Enrique Balbi, the Navy spokesperson, told a press briefing that the sub had reported “the entry of water through the snorkel, a short circuit and the beginnings of a fire, which for us is smoke without flames. It was corrected, they isolated the battery and navigated with another circuit, it was being propelled with the circuit of the stern”.
Timeline | Submarine accidents
Almost two weeks after it disappeared, the only trace of the sub and its 44 crew members has been the reports of an apparent explosion close to its last known location at approximately 11am that morning.
The message is also likely to raise further questions over the Navy’s decision to wait two days to begin a physical search for the ARA San Juan. While the force has insisted this was in accordance with protocol for a submarine that had lost communication, the existence of such faults has generated doubts over that decision.