In Argentina, hopes are high for the welfare of the crew of an Argentine submarine that vanished on Wednesday after it transmitted a message to Argentine naval headquarters about an onboard fault while cruising from Ushuaia to Mar del Plata, near Buenos Aires. Search vessels have detected what appear to be the the sounds of crewmembers banging the hull with tools. On Monday, two ships detected sonar signals from the ARA San Juan.

No radio transmissions have been received from the stricken vessel since Wednesday. The Argentine navy is now analyzing the signals to determine whether they are genuine, after previous transmissions which were thought to be distress signals turned out to be bogus. Naval officials fear that the sub experienced an electrical outage that knocked out communications. They expect that sub may be on the surface.

One of the 44 crew members is weapons officer Eliana Krawczyk, 35, Argentina's first female submariner. The U.S. Navy and the British Royal Navy have deployed ships to the area to assist the search. Search efforts are now being concentrated in an area of 35 square nautical miles around 330 miles off the coast. Brazil, Chile, and Uruguay are also involved in the search.

Argentine Navy spokesman, Enrique Balbi, said analysis of radio transmission received over the weekend revealed that “the seven attempted calls did not come from the submarine's satellite phone.” He added, “We have still been unable to contact [the crew].” Storms have complicated efforts to find the sub.

The Royal Navy deployed a polar exploration vessel, HSM Protector, to assist in searches. NASA sent its Antarctic P-3 Poseidon surveillance aircraft to the scene. The plane searched an area along the Atlantic shore of the South American republic. 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.” Argentina and the United Kingdom went to war in 1982 over the Falkland Islands. The US Navy ordered its California-based Undersea Rescue Command to deploy to Argentina to support the search for the submarine. HMS Protector Commander Angus Essenhigh said the thoughts of his crew are with their Argentine colleagues.

President Mauricio Macri tweeted that Argentina will use “all resources national and international that are necessary to find the submarine.” Family members of the crew members gathered at the naval base at Mar del Plata in the hope of getting news. “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. From the Vatican, Pope Francis -- a native of Argentina -- said he was making “fervent prayers” for the crew.

 The ARA San Juan is a TR-1700 class diesel electric submarine built in Germany. It 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 213-foot long sub was built in 1983 by Thyssen Nordseewerke. However, it underwent a seven-year refit between 2007 and 2014 to extend its life by a further 30 years. It is the newest sub in the flee



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Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.

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