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Navy tug Apache searches for missing cargo ship El Faro

The hunt for the cargo ship that went missing weeks ago during Hurricane Joaquin continued Oct. 19, when the Navy's fleet ocean tug Apache left Norfolk, Virginia, armed with undersea search systems designed to find the presumably sunken vessel.

The Military Sealift Command ocean tug is outfitted with a side-scan sonar, an underwater remote-operated vehicle and a voyage data recorder locator designed to find the cargo ship’s the El Faro's "black box." This device often includes navigational data such as the ship’s position and speed, as well as recordings of radar, bridge-to-bridge communications and alarm systems, all of which will help investigators reconstruct the ship’s last moments.

The U.S. flagged container ship left Jacksonville, Florida, for Puerto Rico on Sept. 30 as Tropical Storm Joaquin gathered strength hundreds of miles to the east. The cargo ship began to take on water as the storm intensified, causing it to begin listing. The cargo ship is believed to have sunk near Crooked Island, off the Bahamas, on Oct. 1. The disaster prompted days of search by the Coast Guard, Navy and others.

All 33 crewmembers aboard are believed to be deadhave died.

The Apache is towing the data recorder locator, which officials hope will find the black box amid a search area of 100 square miles with depths as low as three miles. The Navy's goal is to find and retrieve the missing black box.

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