Ocean Infinity was using autonomous underwater vehicles to search for an Argentine navy submarine that went missing in the Atlantic Ocean last November and found the wreckage Friday. Photo courtesy of Ocean Infinity
Nov. 17 (UPI) -- Authorities said Saturday that a U.S. search team found a missing Argentine naval submarine a year and a day after it vanished with 44 crew members aboard.
The U.S. company in charge of the search operation, Ocean Infinity, discovered the ARA San Juan submarine Friday in the south Atlantic Ocean at a depth of approximately half a mile, about 700 miles east of the Argentine city of Puerto Madryn.
The shipwreck killed 44 crew members aboard. The 44 crew members' families have been summoned to Mar del Plata Naval Base to be officially informed of the discovery of the ship this weekend.
Officials lost radio contact with the San Juan on Nov. 15, 2017, and the Argentine navy called off its rescue operation about two weeks after they were unable to locate the ship, saying there was "no chance of survival" for its crew with just seven days of oxygen aboard.
The Houston-based company sent out mini-submarines to the seabed to get photos of the wreckage. Under an agreement with the Argentine government, it will be paid $7.5 million for the discovery.
The search crew, composed of 40 specialists from Ocean Infinity, set sail on Sept. 8 after winning a bid in August to take up the search effort. Three Argentine Navy personnel and four people representing families were also aboard Ocean Infinity's search vessel.
The team was on its last day of work before heading back to the port when they found a nearly 197-foot long object at a depth of nearly 2,625 feet.
The Argentine navy tweeted an image of the point of interest on the seabed, suggesting the object might be the missing vessel and footage showed relatives of the victims grieving as they received news that the missing submarine had been found.
The condition of the vessel and whether it will be possible to recover it is not yet clear.
It disappeared off Argentina's coast last year in the middle of its journey from Ushuaia to its homes base, Mar del Plata. The last known location was in the San Jorge Gulf.
The Argentine navy said it had reported a short circuit in its battery system before the last contact and the sound of an explosion was detected days later.
Argentina dismissed its navy chief one month after the disappearance.
Federal court testimony shows that a number of naval officials are under investigation for allegedly allowing the submarine to take an extended mission when they were aware of mechanic problems.
Marta Yanez, the federal judge investigating the incident, expressed optimism about the ability to research the disaster with the new images of the wreckage.
"It's one thing to do guesswork, it's a whole different matter to analyze the images we have so specialists can assess what really happened," Yanez said.