MAR DEL PLATA, Argentina — A day after Argentina announced that the wreckage of a Navy submarine that vanished a year ago with 44 sailors on board had been found, several relatives of the crew members demanded on Sunday the authorities spare no effort to bring the remains to the surface quickly.
Their pleas raised the stakes of success for a task that government officials and experts described as herculean.
Navy officials asked relatives to be patient as they try to come up with the next steps.
The government also worked to tamp down expectations that retrieving the wreckage and the human remains from deep on the ocean floor could be done at all.
“Argentina does not have the technical means to surface the submarine and, there is unlikely to be anything in the world to bring from 900 meters deep a mass that weighs 2,300 tons,” Defense Minister Oscar Aguad told Radio Mitre.
If the endeavor is attempted, officials and experts say, it will require meticulous planning to avoid doing further damage to the vessel, the San Juan. That might undermine the investigation into what had doomed the sub and its crew.
For the families gathered in Mar Del Plata, the beachside city that was the base for the San Juan, the demand for a return of the bodies has become the latest rallying cry in their often-tense relationship with naval officials.
Relatives have accused the military of not doing enough to find their loved ones. And in the period after the sub disappeared, they also faulted it for offering incomplete or misleading information about the accident.
Many believe the submarine was finally discovered only because relatives set up a makeshift camp outside the presidential palace for 52 days earlier this year. That prompted the government to hire a Houston-based company, Ocean Infinity, which located the submarine Friday after an earlier, unfruitful international search.
Now the families want the remains.
“It’s not something I want — it’s something I need,” said Yolanda Susana Mendiola, 55, the mother of Leandro Cisneros, 28. “I need to have something of my son’s to be able to mourn him.”
Ms. Mendiola spoke outside the hotel where some 70 family members were staying Sunday. Many had arrived for a ceremony Thursday to mark the one-year anniversary of the sub’s disappearance, and then decided to stay after news of the discovery.
On Sunday, Vice Adm. José Luis Villán, the head of the Argentine navy, went to the hotel to talk to the family members. He said that the next steps would be slow and that any decision on trying to recover the vessel would have to be made by the judiciary that is investigating the accident.
“He didn’t quite say it, but he implied that we should start thinking about leaving the hotel and going back home,” said Daniel Esteban Polo, 56, the father of one of the crew members, Daniel Alejandro Polo. “I’m going back tomorrow. I need to start living my life again.”
Other family members appeared less ready to move on, and said the discovery of the submarine did not give them the closure many had hoped for in their push for answers.
Juan Alberto Aramayo, 60, whose son was on the submarine, has been staying at the hotel since he arrived here a year ago when the sub disappeared. He said he was not ready to leave.
“I’m not going anywhere until they bring the submarine to shore,” Mr. Aramayo said. “We know it can be done, but it’s up to the government to decide it wants to do it.”
As convinced as many family members are that lifting the submarine and bringing it to shore is possible, experts are much less certain.
“There aren’t many precedents in the world of carrying out a feat of this magnitude,” said Fernando Morales, a navy expert and vice president of the Argentine Navy League. “It presupposes a feat of engineering that, even if possible, could demand one to two years of preparation, and even then may prove to be prohibitively expensive.”
Although some cited the example of a sunken Russian submarine, the Kursk, which was successfully raised from the seabed in 2001, that vessel was only 380 feet deep. The San Juan is almost 3,000 feet deep.
For Oliver Plunkett, chief executive of Ocean Infinity, there are other issues. Even if the submarine can be brought to shore, he said, when it got there, the vessel might not be in the condition that family members imagine. And it might not offer information helpful to the investigation.
“It may be technically impossible to lift it so that it comes on land looking exactly the same as it does on the seabed,” Mr. Plunkett said, emphasizing that it was still “far too early” to have a definitive answer.
Capt. Richard Bryant, a retired American Navy submarine commander, said recovery efforts at such depths are complex and rely mainly on vehicles operated remotely. Because of the age and condition of much of Argentina’s Navy fleet, its government is likely to seek international help.
“We have significant salvage capabilities,” Captain Bryant said, referring to the United States Navy. “We recover everything from downed airplanes to downed ships.”
While unmanned vessels are unlikely to be able to bring to the surface heavy parts of the submarine, they can be used to attach cables that can be hoisted up by large ships or barges, he added.
The federal judge who is in charge of investigating the disappearance, Marta Yáñez, told local media that she expected to receive 67,000 images of the wreckage from Ocean Infinity. Those images — along with a final report — are unlikely to arrive before the end of the month, Mr. Plunkett said.
For some family members, bringing the San Juan to shore would be the only way to put a final end to numerous conspiracy theories that have made the rounds since it disappeared — including one tale that the crew members were taken prisoner.
“How do I know the submarine isn’t empty inside?” Ms. Mendiola said. “I know some people will say I’m crazy, but I really just don’t know who to believe anymore.”
Forensic experts said that as long as there are some remains, identification might be possible. But the state of the bodies themselves would depend on several factors that so far remain unknown.
Even without the bodies, many family members say the discovery of the wreckage was what they needed to accept that their loved ones are not coming back.
Margarita Ventícola, Mr. Polo’s wife, for example, got angry when she heard earlier this month that a family member had included a picture of their son in an altar set up for All Souls Day. She demanded that his picture be removed because, she insisted, he was not dead.
Next year, though, the family says, it will include a photo of their son in the altar along with, as is tradition, his favorite food — peanut soup and meat and potato pie.
“I also want my son to be taken out of the water, but at least I finally know where he is,” Mr. Polo said.
Late Sunday afternoon, a group of family members sporadically blocked traffic outside the Mar del Plata Naval Base as part of a protest. They read the names of the crew members aloud.
Among them was Andrea Mereles, 38, whose husband, Ricardo Gabriel Alfaro Rodríguez, was aboard the submarine, and who spoke of the daunting task that lies ahead of her: telling her 8-year-old son, Tiziano, that his father had died.
Tiziano has spent the past year convinced he would eventually come home.
“He calls his father his best friend,” she said, her voice breaking, “and I have to tell him his best friend isn’t coming back.”
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