The Royal Navy has deployed an ice patrol ship to help search for a missing Argentinian submarine with 44 crew members on board.
Britain sent the HSM Protector, a polar exploration vessel, to the southern Argentine Sea to assist in searches for the military sub ARA San Juan, which lost contact with officials three days ago.
Argentina’s navy detected seven brief satellite calls that officials believe may have come from the missing submarine, believing the ship is ‘trying to re-establish contact’.
The Royal Navy has deployed ice patrol ship HSM Protector to help search for a missing Argentinian submarine with 44 crew members on board
Argentine naval officials hope the submarine may have suffered a communication problem and is currently on the surface although there have been no radar or visual sightings
The country’s first female submarine officer, 35-year-old Eliana Krawczyk, is among the 44 crew missing in the South Atlantic for after the vessel lost contact more than 250 miles from the coast.
Argentine authorities clarified that it has not been confirmed the calls came from the submarine, the ARA San Juan, though that is the working hypothesis.
The communication attempts ‘indicate that the crew is trying to re-establish contact, so we are working to locate the source of the emissions’, the navy said on its Twitter account, adding that the calls lasted between four and 36 seconds.
Admiral Gabriel Gonzalez, chief of the Mar del Plata Naval Base, said authorities have reinforced both the surface search for the missing submarine and the underwater search.
Pledges of help came from Chile, Uruguay, Peru and Brazil, as well as the United States, which sent a Nasa scientific aircraft and a navy plane.
There is ‘coordination with units from the United Kingdom and the United States’, he said.
Eliana Krawczyk, 35, is the weapons officer on the ARA San Juan which last made contact with its base on Wednesday, she is Argentina’s first female submariner
Britain and Argentina fought a war in 1982 over the Falklands Islands, which are called the Malvinas in Argentina.
A spokesman for the British Navy said: ‘Following a request from the Argentine government, HMS Protector has been deployed to join the search and rescue effort for the ARA San Juan.’
The US Navy ordered its Undersea Rescue Command based in San Diego, California, to deploy to Argentina to support the search for the submarine.
The search for the submarine was disrupted earlier this weekend by a storm, which brought powerful winds and 20ft waves to the Argentine sea.
The Argentine navy expects poor weather to continue through Sunday Afternoon.
NASA has also sent its Antarctic P-3 Poseidon surveillance aircraft to the scene
Navy spokesman Enrique Balbi said on Saturday that the area being searched off the country’s southern Atlantic coast has been doubled as concerns about the crew’s fate grew.
‘We are not discounting any hypothesis,’ Mr Balbi said. Possibilities could include ‘a problem with communications’ or with its power system, he said.
Authorities last had contact with the German-built diesel-electric sub on Wednesday as it was on a voyage from the southern port of Ushuaia to Mar del Plata.
A multi-national rescue operation has been launched to find Ms Krawczyk and her crewmates, including an aircraft from NASA.
President Mauricio Macri said in a tweet that the country will use ‘all resources national and international that are necessary to find the submarine’.
Krawczyk, 35, is one of the crew onboard the vessel which went missing on Wednesday
Relatives of the crew members gathered at the Mar del Plata Naval Base in the hopes of hearing news about their loved ones.
‘We feel anguish. We are reserved but will not lose our hope that they will return,’ Marcela Moyano, wife of machinist Hernan Rodriguez, told television network TN.
‘We’re very worried, we have little news, we’re waiting for communication,’ said Eduardo Krawczyk, weapons officer Ms Krawczyk,the only woman on board the German-built submarine.
He told the Sunday Times that he last spoke to his daughter 15 days ago.
‘She told me that they had arrived in Tierra del Fuego and that the governor had come aboard and congratulated her on being the only female crew member,’ he added.
From the Vatican, Argentine Pope Francis said he was making ‘fervent prayers’ for the crew.
The missing submarine was sailing from Ushuaia to Mar Del Plata when it vanished
The TR-1700 class diesel electric submarine had been returning from a routine mission to Ushuaia near the southernmost tip of South America, to its base at Mar del Plata, around 240 miles south of Buenos Aires.
The San Juan is one of three submarines in the Argentine fleet.
The 213-foot long submarine was built in 1983 by Germany’s Thyssen Nordseewerke. However, it underwent a seven-year refit between 2007 and 2014 to extend its life by a further 30 years.
The navy believes the submarine, which left Ushuaia en route to the coastal city of Mar del Plata in Buenos Aires province, had communication difficulties that may have been caused by an electrical outage, Balbi said.
Navy protocol would call for the submarine to come to the surface once communication was lost.
He said: ‘We expect that it is on the surface.’
The German-built submarine, which uses diesel-electric propulsion, was inaugurated in 1983, making it the newest of the three submarines in the navy’s fleet, according to the navy.