Something strange is going on with regards to the ARA San Juan, a 44-crew Argentine submarine that went missing on Nov. 15th.
Put simply, I doubt Argentina's claim that it received reports on Wednesday and Thursday of underwater acoustic events recorded last week.
Argentina says that the first acoustic report arrived from the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization on Thursday, and the other report from the U.S. on Wednesday. Both reports, the Argentine navy says, match the time and location of the San Juan's disappearance last week. Argentina now believes an underwater explosion occurred.
Sadly, it seems likely the boat has been lost with all hands.
Still, as I say, the story doesn't add up here.
First off, if a major abnormal, non-naturally occurring sound was detected on Nov. 15th, why did Argentina only find out about it today and yesterday?
If a submarine explosion/implosion-magnitude sound was recorded, the data analysis devices employed by the CTBTO and the U.S. source (we don't know the identity of the U.S. detecting agency) would likely have registered it immediately. Even if analysts weren't looking for a sound in the area, their computer systems probably would have flagged the sound for further investigation.
But let's assume that didn't happen and that the sound was recorded but not flagged for attention and thus sank into the storage files.
Even then, it still doesn't explain why the Argentina was informed just yesterday about the sounds. After all, the moment the San Juan was reported missing on Nov. 17th, any organization possessing acoustic collection capabilities in the South Atlantic would have immediately scoured their data recordings for any evidence of an explosion. That process should have taken a matter of hours, certainly not a week.
There's another mystery here.
We now know the San Juan passed closer to the British Falkland Islands territory than previously believed. As I noted last week, this makes it likely the San Juan would have been monitored by the Royal Navy. Moreover, we must assume Britain has advanced acoustic capabilities reaching toward the location where the San Juan was last detected. That certainly seems more credible than the CTBTO — oriented toward detecting nuclear tests — somehow measuring the South Atlantic (there aren't many nuclear powers in that region).
Considering that military grade acoustic systems are designed to detect a metaphorical pin drop in the ocean, it seems odd that the Royal Navy wouldn't have detected any major noise in that region.
That leads me to lean towards two alternative conclusions about what's going on here.
First, that the U.S. or Royal Navy detected the explosion last week and rapidly passed that information directly to Argentina. In this case, we must assume the Argentine navy kept their findings quiet in the hope of finding the San Juan or its wreckage. Now that they are declaring the reports, it seems clear they believe San Juan is lost.
Second, that the Royal Navy detected the explosion and rapidly passed that information on to the CTBTO, for reasons of diplomacy or to avoid showing Argentina their detection capabilities.
Regardless, I believe Argentina knew more earlier than it claims.