A few years ago, I created a piece about the missing Argentine submarine ARA San Juan. For those that do not remember, back in 2017, the Argentine Navy Type 1700 submarine ARA San Juan disappeared on a voyage from Ushuaia to Mar del Plata. At the time, people thought it may have sunk over the continental shelf where the seafloor was shallow enough the boat could have survived and not imploded. A year later, surveyors discovered the wreck at a much deeper depth east of the continental shelf. But at the time of the loss I made a graphic trying to show how the submarine was much smaller than the standard American submarine, the Los Angeles class, and how much deeper the Los Angeles class can dive.
So when the news broke this week that an Indonesian submarine, KRI Nanggala disappeared north of Bali, Indonesia, I decided to update the graphic. Since I finished the piece, however, the Indonesian Navy discovered the wreck in three pieces at 850 metres, far below even the presumed crush depth of the Los Angeles class. In other words, at that depth there was never any hope to find survivors.
The Indonesia submarine is an even smaller than the Argentine boat, both having an operating depth of about 250 metres—actual depths are generally not disclosed because, well, military secrets. But the graphic shows just how far below that depth the sub’s wreckage rests.
A story over the last several days you may not have heard about concerns the disappearance of the ARA San Juan, an Argentinian Navy submarine. Here in the US and over in the UK, we use rather large nuclear-powered submarines. They can travel the world underwater without ever coming up for air. But most of the rest of the world uses much smaller diesel-electric submarines. They have to come up for air every couple days, like in all those World War II submarine movies.
As you know, these kind of stories are right up my alley and I wanted to try and explain the story visually. Unfortunately, it took me way too long to illustrate the two submarines you will see. So instead, we have more of a comparison of the San Juan, a Type 1700 submarine, and the movie-famous American Los Angeles class attack submarine.
I had a lot of other things planned, but had to drop them. The point is that the Argentinian submarine is a lot smaller, has fewer crew, but needs to come to the surface in the next day or two, most likely. Time is beginning to run out.
Today you are going to get two posts. The first is this, which is a break from the week’s theme. But news stories happen. The second will be back to regular programming at the regular time. Basically, the Swedish government is reporting that a foreign submarine is operating within its waters and the available evidence points to Russia. I have seen some ridiculous claims that one of Russia’s largest submarines is in trouble there. But I highly doubt that. And here is why.