January 27, 2014
Cannibal Rats Go Cruising
There is a ghost cruise ship floating somewhere in the North Atlantic and reportedly heading towards Great Britain with a very unwelcome set of passengers: hundreds of disease-ridden cannibal rats. In these days when luxury cruising meets the mass market, this might be a bit too much in the way of moving “down market” for some and Scottish coastguards are on the lookout for the mystery vessel.
The story of the now empty and crewless MV Lyubov Orlova brings to mind that of another notorious ghost ship. Way back in December 1872 the British-American merchant ship the Mary Celeste was found drifting in the Atlantic with no crew on board. Everything was intact including the cargo of pure alcohol and all the sailor’s possessions and valuables. There was enough food and water for six months. None of the crew was ever seen again and speculation about why the ship was abandoned has continued down the years. The tale of the Mary Celeste became the stuff of legend.
Although the story of MV Lyubov Orlova is not shrouded in mystery, her current whereabouts definitely are. Built in Yugoslavia in 1976, she was a 300 foot cruise ship with a strengthened hull for ice-bound waters and made many trips to both the Arctic and Antarctic. She took her name from Russia’s first big movie star and chanteuse who had the other distinction of having a main belt asteroid, 3108 Lyubov, named after her. The ship first came to grief in 2006 when she ran aground off Deception Island in the Antarctic Peninsula and had to be towed to the Argentinian port of Ushaia. After repairs she went back into service, but her bad luck continued. In September 2010 the ship was seized at St John’s in Newfoundland due to debts of over a quarter of a million dollars and was sold to a salvage company to be broken up. She rotted in the harbor for two years before setting off under tow for the Dominican Republic to be scrapped. But in heavy weather, in January 2013, the tow line parted and MV Lyubov Orlova drifted into wild seas off Canada’s Avalon Peninsula. As the ship was a danger to offshore oil operations and the local environment, she was recaptured by the supply vessel Atlantic Hawk. Once outside territorial waters, the Canadian authorities decided that prevailing winds and currents would take her away from any immediate local danger and she was cut loose. The ship had become a modern day ghost ship free to drift wherever the elements would take her.
The ship’s distress beacons have been picked up on various occasions indicating her steady drift westwards towards the UK. Now salvage hunters are looking for the ship and believe it is out there waiting to be found. One of them, Pim de Rhoodes, a Belgian salvage hunter, told the British tabloid newspaper The Sun that in his opinion based on experience of similar situations “There will be a lot of rats and they will be eating each other. If I get aboard I will have to lace everything with poison.” With a scrap value of approximately $1 million, the race is on to find the ship, but who would want to be the first to board and join the cannibal rats on their mystery cruise?
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