A ghost ship full of diseased, cannibalistic rats could be nearing landfall somewhere in the British Isles.
No, it's not the plot for a new horror film. According to The Independent, the 300-foot cruise liner Lyubov Orlova, which has been drifting, crewless, around the North Atlantic for nearly a year since it snapped its towline en route to the scrapyard, might be moving east toward the English coast.
What about the rats, you ask? The newspaper says:
"Experts say the ship, which is likely to still contain hundreds of rats that have been eating each other to survive, must still be out there somewhere because not all of its lifeboat emergency beacons have been set off."
Salvage hunters are looking for the vessel, hoping to cash in on the estimated $820,000 it would fetch as salvage. The Sun quotes Pim de Rhoodes, a Belgian-based marine missions specialist, as saying, "There will be a lot of rats and they eat each other. If I get aboard I'll have to lace everywhere with poison."
Salon.com, which has a somewhat more sober take on the situation, points out that The Independent's tale of the 1,565-ton floating nightmare "is based on some true facts, and then fluffed up with a lot of conjecture."
Here's a bit of back story, according to Salon:
"The Yugoslavian-built Lyubov Orlova ... was seized by Canadian authorities after its owners racked up $250,000 in unpaid debts. En route to being sold for scrap in the Dominican Republic in January 2013, a storm snapped her towline. [Owner] Transport Canada decided not to pursue the ship."
The crew reportedly walked off the ship in 2010 after not getting paid, The Telegraph says.
According to The Independent:
"The authorities in Newfoundland tried to sell the hull for scrap ... to the Dominican Republic, but cut their losses when it came loose in a storm on the way.
Sending the ship off into international waters, Transport Canada said it was satisfied the Lyubov Orlova 'no longer poses a threat to the safety of [Canadian] offshore oil installations, their personnel or the marine environment.'
"Two signals were picked up on the 12 and 23 March last year, presumably from lifeboats which fell away and hit the water, showing the vessel had made it two-thirds of the way across the Atlantic and was heading east.
"A week later, an unidentified object of about the right size was spotted on radar just off the coast of Scotland — but search planes never verified the find."
As Salon points out, ghost ships are not entirely uncommon, though it's harder to find accounts of the cannibal rats that presumably would have been aboard some of them.