ARA San Juan

It has become apparent that the ARA San Juan, a German-built diesel-electric submarine in the Argentina Navy, has been lost with all hands.

San Juan had been missing since November 15, following a naval exercise in Terra del Fuego archipelago and a shore visit to Ushuaia, the provincial capital.  International search and rescue efforts in ensuing days were hampered by severe weather with waves as high as 33 feet (10 meters).

On November 23, the Argentine Navy reported that an event consistent with an explosion had been detected on the day San Juan lost communications by Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) seismic anomaly listening posts on Ascension Island and Crozet Islands.  CTBTO had been asked to analyze data early in the search, but no information was available until November 22 when CTBTO provided information to the Argentine government through the Austrian ambassador in Austria (CTBTO is based in Vienna).

Navy spokesman Enrique Balbi said evidence showed “an anomalous event that was singular, short, violent and non-nuclear that was consistent with an explosion.”

It’s been nine days since San Juan went missing. Even if found today, it’s unlikely that there would be any survivors.

Families of crewmembers have been told there is no chance that any of the 44 San Juan sailors are alive.

I served on the USS Casimir Pulaski (SSBN 633) blue crew for 6 deterrent patrols from 1974 to 1977.  Pulaski was a fleet ballistic missile (FBM) boat. — Mike Goad [former MM1(SS)]

The image of San Juan was rendered in Akvis Sketch using a photo released by the Argentina Navy.

accident, military, ocean, submarine

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  • Hilary Nov 24, 2017

    Hi Mike – it must be desperate for loved ones and families … so so sad – I feel for them all – Hilary
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    • Mike Nov 24, 2017

      It’s another tragedy among so many other tragedies, but this is different for those of us who have “been there.” By that, I don’t mean that we’ve been in danger like them or physically where they actually were when the boat went down. Rather, we’ve lived the life, spent time under water with the possibility, however unlikely, of not coming back. We never dwelt on it, never brooded on it, most likely seldom even thought about it. But, we’ve been there… and they will always, always be brothers — and sister — of the ‘phin.

      “I am the brother of every submariner in the world, regardless of Nationality.”
      “I am a brother of the ‘phin’.”

      ‘phin is short for dolphin, the metal emblem that only submariners can wear on their uniform
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  • Ursula Nov 26, 2017

    Spooky. Your clip touching enough – the personal connection (yours) bringing it even more to life (!). Water, the deep sea fascinate me as only one who is afraid of its forces can be fascinated. Give me a seafaring account, whether fact or fiction, I’ll read it and shiver.

    Have you watched “Das Boot”? You’ll probably nod in recognition of many aspects of life lived in such testosterone laden close proximity with others, little privacy, tension and – not least, horror of horrors – being submerged under water most the time. I dare say, Mike, claustrophobics need not apply.

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    • Mike Nov 26, 2017

      Actually, living on a submerged modern nuclear submarine is quite different from what most of the movies and TV shows portray. My typical day was 18 hours instead of 24. I would be on watch for 6 hours and then off for 12, then the rotation begins again. During the 12 off hours, I would eat, sleep, read, play cards, watch a movie — if one was playing during the time I had off — all the things one normally does when at sea and off watch. Then it would be back on watch for another 6 hours. My last patrol was a different routine: 6 hours on and 18 hours off.

      I never had an issue with lack of privacy. I had plenty of “alone” time. Our “boat” was actually quite large — 425 ft (130 m) in length, with 3 levels through about 2/3 of that. Total crew was about 140.

      I spent a total of about 15 months under water. There were only a couple of times where there was really any “tension” and only one time where things could have gone horribly wrong. I only knew about it because I sensed something different and went up to the control room — the place where the periscope is — to see what was going on. This was during a time when I was standing watches there so I wasn’t out of place to be there when I was off watch. Without going into detail, it was a short term loss of depth control and we were dropping quite a bit below where we normally operated.

      I did have the opportunity to be on one of the ship’s controls in the control room when we did an intentional emergency surface. (Read about it: )
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