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A Rat-Infested Ghost Ship? Maybe Not

By: By Eric Zerkel
Published: January 25, 2014

Could an abandoned, cannibalistic rat-infested, 1,565 ton Soviet-era cruise liner be just another winter storm away from colliding with the coast of the United Kingdom or Ireland? Not likely, according to the British Coast Guard, but that hasn't stopped the British press from speculating that a "ghost-ship" could be just hours away from impact. 

So what's the story?

Built in 1976 in the former Yugoslavia, the Lyubov Orlova used to cater to Russian elite on cruises to Earth's polar regions. But the ship's owner racked up some $250,000 in debts, leading Canadian authorities to seize the ship in 2010, Quartz reports.

The ship, worth an estimated $1.1 million, was towed out of a Canadian port in Newfoundland last January en route to a scrap yard in the Dominican Republic, The National Post reports, but rough seas cut the towline, leaving the ship barreling east across the Atlantic Ocean.

According to The National Post, another ship dispatched by Canadian authorities corralled the Lyubov Orlova and towed it further out to sea, away from Canadian oil assets, but once the feat was accomplished the ghost ship was cut-loose, because as Transport Canada put it, the vessel “no longer poses a threat to the safety of [Canadian] offshore oil installations, their personnel or the marine environment."

With no crew on board, the ship was thought to be lost forever, until March 2013, when two lifeboats fell off the ship, sending signals to authorities that the vessel had traveled two-thirds of the way across the Atlantic Ocean and was headed east, straight for the British and Irish coasts, according to The Independent. 

Just a week later, radar picked up an object similar in size to the Lyubov Orlova just off the Scottish coast, the Daily Mirror reports, but search efforts returned nothing. 

Months have passed with no new signals, and no sign of the ghost ship, leading many to believe the massive ship may be still intact. Adding to the speculation, a series of powerful storms have battered the coast of Ireland and the United Kingdom over the past 10 months, bringing with them powerful winds that may have pushed the abandoned vessel closer toward a collision with the "west coasts of Ireland and Scotland, or the southern tip of England," the Telegraph reports

As for the rats? The National Post reports that the Lyubov Orlova sat in port for more than two years in Newfoundland, "virtually guaranteeing" the ship acquired a rat infestation. After a nearly year adrift with no food, many British media outlets believe that the rats may have turned on each other in order to survive. 

Whether or not the cannibal rats, or an intact ghost ship exist, remains to be seen, but it sure does make for a great Hollywood horror script

MORE: Ghastly Shipwrecks From Around the World

The MV Panagiotis is seen on Navagio beach in Zakynthos, Greece. (Flickr/monica.renata)


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