orlova-vsl

A huge, abandoned ship floats out at sea–forgotten–for years. Below deck, nothing except a mutant, brutal breed of carnivorous rats. The ghostly vessel floats slowly, steadily towards the shores of Great Britain, ready to release the diseased rodents on civilized people…

It’s the stuff of legend–or at least the next zombie apocalypse movie–but this is no fictional tale. Long story short, an old Russian cruise liner named the Lyubov Orlava was abandoned in a Canadian port back in 2010 for financial reasons. Canadian authorities decided to tow it down to the Caribbean and sell it for scrap metal, but while en route, the boat broke loose and floated out in the Atlantic. The ship, without a crew or any active equipment on board, gave off no signal and was as good as gone.

However, this past March, the Lyubov Orlava appeared on the radar when two of its lifeboats somehow released themselves from the vessel, giving off a signal. Remarkably, the ship had floated two thirds of the way across the Atlantic and was heading towards the United Kingdom.

This brought some exciting speculation and questions, such as the obvious: what would be on board an old, abandoned ship? Well rats of course. But after years adrift without any food, these rats would have no choice but to feed on their own kind. Experts described a super-breed of cannibalistic, disease-laiden rodents.

The story inspired a plethora of media attention this past week (for some reason), and newspapers spelled disaster with headlines like “Ghost ship carrying cannibal rats could be heading for Britain.” However, the frenzy on land never really matched the cyber freak-out, and most ghost ship experts agreed that the Lyubov probably sunk somewhere in a storm over the summer or fall. A bit anticlimactic, but hey, we can all appreciate a good story.

It’s too bad actually that the Lyubov didn’t steal all the media’s attention, because a few other cruise ships are currently battling their own press nightmares. Just this past Wednesday, a Royal Caribbean cruise ship returned to port two days early after more than 600 people on board came down norovirus, a brutally contagious stomach bug.  A Princess Cruise ship faced a similar situation when nearly 200 people came down with the illness.

Cannibal rats and at-sea epidemics? Plan your next vacation accordingly.

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