Authorities last had contact with the ARA San Juan sub on Wednesday as it journeyed from the extreme southern port of Ushuaia to the coastal city of Mar del Plata. International aircraft and ships, including a British polar exploration vessel, have joined in the search efforts.
The communication attempts received on Saturday were originally thought to indicate that the crew was trying to re-establish contact and had prompted emotional celebrations by family members and officials. But Navy spokesman Enrique Balbi said Monday that officials analyzed the seven low-frequency satellite signals and determined they were not received from the submarine.
Although the crew has enough food, oxygen and fuel to survive about 90 days on the sea’s surface, they only have enough oxygen to last for seven days if submerged, Balbi said.
The maritime search has already been hindered by stormy seas with waves up to 20 feet (6 meters).
Adm. Gabriel Gonzalez of the Mar del Plata Naval Base also said Monday that the submarine had sent an alert Wednesday about an unspecified breakdown, raising the possibility of a technical difficulty for the first time.
At the Vatican, Argentine Pope Francis said that he is sending “fervent prayers” for the crew.
Family members took to social media on Monday to ask for support during the search.
“Pray so that my husband, Fernando Santilli can return home,” Jesica Gopar said on Twitter. “He’s in the San Juan submarine.”
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