Relax, There Isn’t A Cannibal Rat-Infested Ghost Ship Headed For The UK

Stories about an abandoned Russian cruise ship filled with diseased rodents might have been a bit exaggerated.

1. You may have seen this alarming tale today.

2. The Sun even created this chilling video reconstruction of the ghost ship and its rodent crew.


3. It’s got a lot of people worried. Either that, or it’s a very fun story to write.

4. The Prime Minister was dragged into it this morning when journalists asked his spokesman what was going on.

BREAKING: Cameron's spokesman declines to comment on whether Special Boat Service is ready to intercept the CANNIBAL RAT GHOST SHIP.

— Robert Hutton (@RobDotHutton)

7. So is this Russian cruise ship, now abandoned and not seen for months, full of diseased cannibal rats and heading towards the UK?

The short answer is no, it’s probably not.

The slightly longer answer is that the ship was last detected adrift and in the Atlantic, but there’s not been a definite sighting of it for a long time, despite several attempts to find it.

8. This story is in fact a year old exactly: the 100-metre cruise liner began drifting from the Canadian coast after its tow-rope snapped on 24 January 2013.

As Canada’s National Post reported at the time, it had been sold for scrap metal for CA$275,000 and lay rusting in St John Harbor.

The Irish Coast Guard expressed concern that the ship could drift over to Ireland and might pose a biohazard risk.

In March 2013 the ship’s emergency radio beacon transmitted a message while still 700 nautical miles away from the Irish coast. There has been no firm sighting or contact since April 2013.Irish attempts to find it with radar and satellite found nothing.

9. The Irish Coast Guard told BuzzFeed the most likely outcome is the ship has sank or run aground somewhere.

Chris Reynolds, from the Coast Guard, told us that attempts to find the ship with satellites and planes had found nothing.

“We do not know if it has sunk or run aground but in our professional experience, with the storms that have been going through, it’s likely she has been washed up somewhere in Europe or she’s sunk. We are not concerned,” he said.

Reynolds admitted it’s possible the ship is still out there but added that “the ocean is a big place and it doesn’t necessarily mean you would see it.”

If anything, the Coast Guard is more worried that another vessel might run into it than it landing on Irish soil (and unleashing dangerous cannibal rats onto the unsuspecting Irish people).

Newspaper reports that “coastguards and other authorities are worried storms may have driven her thousands of miles towards BRITAIN’S coast” don’t seem to add up.

10. The UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency said this morning, in response to some feverish (and international) media coverage:

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) has received no sightings of the former Soviet cruise ship ‘Lyubov Orlova’ since April last year and there is no evidence to suggest it is still afloat.

Any ‘ghost’ ship entering European waters is highly likely to be reported due to the large number of vessels passing through the area. We would then act accordingly.

11. And the rats?

Well, it’s likely that a ship that size staying put in a harbor for two years would attract some vermin, maybe a lot of them. But any reports of an evil mega-race of cannibal rats sadly can’t be confirmed. Or maybe that’s a good thing.

The RSPCA tells “Rats have a really bad press and this doesn’t help. These are animals that actually respond to one another in social distress… They are no more inclined to eat one another than humans.”

12. Where did this story come from?

It’s been public knowledge for 12 months that the Lyubov is drifting across the Atlantic and there have been several news reports based on clues to its progress on both sides of the Atlantic since.

But The Sun’s story yesterday, billed as “exclusive”, appears to have brought the story back to life with a bang.

That also appears to be the origin of the cannibal rat angle to the swathes of media coverage. Belgian ship salvage searcher Pim de Rhoodes told the paper: “There will be a lot of rats and they eat each other. If I get aboard I’ll have to lace everywhere with poisin.”

In any case, it was an entertaining read for The Sun’s six million readers.

13. Even if it’s not true, you can still have fun with it.

I wonder who's going to be eliminated from tonight's episode of Rat-Infested Yugoslavian Ghost Ship.

— Pete Paphides (@petepaphides)

i just booked a 7 day rat ship cruise on groupon for $19

— samir mezrahi (@samir)

Ghost ship with cannibal rats on the way. It's times like this I'm glad I built that rat proof panic room last year

— Susan Calman (@SusanCalman)

As a Canadian, I am WAY prouder of the cannibal rat ship than I am of Justin Bieber.

— Darren Elmore (@darrenelmore)

@psmith it's a bit like a dark knight style origin story for Splinter from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

— Vincent McAviney (@VMcAVSKY)

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Patrick Smith is a senior reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
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