A U.S. Navy search team has found what it believes is the submerged wreckage of the American cargo ship El Faro, which went missing last month during Hurricane Joaquin, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board announced in a press release Saturday night. The 790-foot ship, along with its crew of 28 Americans and five Polish citizens, went missing near the Bahamas on Oct. 1.
Using a ship-based sonar system called Orion, the search team on board the USNS Apache located the ship in question near El Faro’s last known location, at a depth of about 15,000 feet.
In its press release, the NTSB said, “The target identified by Orion is consistent with a 790-foot cargo ship, which from sonar images appears to be in an upright position and in one piece.”
In order to confirm the wrecked vessel’s identity, specialists aboard the Apache will send a drone submarine called the CURV-21 nearly three miles down into the depths to investigate the wreck. The NTSB said this survey could begin as early as Sunday.
The disappearance of the ship — which was en route from Jacksonville, Florida, to San Juan, Puerto Rico, — prompted the NTSB to contract with the U.S. Navy to undertake a massive search that covered tens of thousands of square miles of ocean.
Search teams had previously found debris from the ship and recovered the body of one crew member still wearing a survival suit.
If the wreck does turn out to be El Faro, the Navy team will begin to document and vessel and its debris field, find the voyage data recorder (similar to the so-called black boxes that commercial airliners carry) and recover the remains of the missing sailors.