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Is ship full of rats headed your way?
00:42 - Source: CNN

Editor’s Note: Each week in “Apparently This Matters,” CNN’s Jarrett Bellini applies his warped sensibilities to trending topics in social media and random items of interest on the Web.

Story highlights

The Lyubov Orlova was built in 1976 as an arctic cruise ship for elite Russian travelers

In 2012, the abandoned ship was accidentally lost at sea and believed to be infested with cannibal rats

Recently, media publications have warned that the ship might actually strike the coast of Ireland or the UK

CNN  — 

It’s the stuff of movies. Bad movies. But movies.

The kind you watch when it’s a Friday night, you’re feeling lazy, and, oh look! A bucket of hummus!

That kind of movie.

A ship. Lost at sea. Abandoned by all humans. Floating untethered into the fog. Infested with hundreds of cannibal rats. Slowly and perilously drifting toward shore.

But, you see, this isn’t a movie. This is really happening.

"Apparently This Matters" Is Jarrett Bellini's weekly (and somewhat random) look at social-media trends.


The big fear is that this completely real ghost ship could actually be ready to hit land and unleash rat-feces-palooza on the people of Ireland or the UK, who are, no doubt, just innocently going about their day, doing whatever it is those people do. Like building pretty stone fences and arguing with sheep.

(By the way: If Rat-Feces-Palooza isn’t already a huge concert event, it should be. Tweet your pick for headlining band with #RatFecesPalooza.)

So, here’s what happened.

Back in 1976, a 4,200-ton cruise ship called the Lyubov Orlova was built in Yugoslavia and was specially designed to sail Russia’s elite travelers around the coldest regions on Earth.

Because, you know … Russia.

Why go to the Greek Islands when you can spend seven days floating next to an iceberg covered in seal turds?

Eventually, though, the private owners of the ship racked up too much debt, and, in 2010, Canadian authorities seized the vessel, which had been docked in St. John’s, Newfoundland where it was, presumably, quite bored.

Two years later, the Canadians sold it for scrap and began hauling the old girl down to the Dominican Republic so it could be dismantled and possibly turned into steel drums.

But then, only one day after leaving port, the towline snapped in heavy seas, and the Lyubov Orlova decided to piss off across the Atlantic. As one does when you have nothing better to do and you’re a boat.

“(Sigh) I would like to have seen Montana.”

Eventually, another Canadian ship was sent out to corral the wayward vessel in what can only be described as the slowest, crappiest, worst-attended rodeo of all time. But once captured, the Lyubov Orlova was safely hauled farther out to sea, away from Canadian oil rigs.

And then they just sort of cut it loose in international waters. Because, hey, what’s the worst that could happen?

Transport Canada, the government department responsible for roads and planes and trains and SHIPS YOU JUST LET WANDER OFF INTO THE OCEAN, assured its citizens that the Lyubov Orlova “no longer poses a threat to the safety of [Canadian] offshore oil installations, their personnel, or the marine environment.”

As for everyone else and the hundreds of diseased cannibal rats floating around the Atlantic?

“Soory ‘boot that, eh.”

And, so, the 295-foot ship goes sliding by. Free!

But then, in March 2013, two lifeboats suddenly fell off the ship and landed in the water. This automatically triggered warning signals that alerted authorities that, holy crap, this thing had floated two-thirds of the way across the Atlantic and was heading straight toward Britain and Ireland.

So, radar operators and pilots went looking for the ship. And they couldn’t find it. And, now, months later, several news agencies are reporting that the Lyubov Orlova might actually still be intact and getting closer to land.

Probably with rats.

Canada’s National Post explained that the vessel pretty much sat on it’s fat, metal butt in that dock in Newfoundland for over two years, “virtually guaranteeing” that the ship is infested with hundreds of these little bastards. And since there’s no food on board, the rats have likely turned on each other.

“Damnit, Reggie!”


The big fear, now, is that a monster storm might give the ship the extra push it needs to finally make landfall. However, people are still hopeful that they can corral it at sea long before that actually happens. In which case, scrap haulers will have to climb on board and deal with the rats. Which sounds like a lovely way to spend an afternoon.

But it’s also possible that none of this will happen.

The Irish Coast Guard recently released a statement saying: “There is no further action required by Ireland and there are no reports and sightings.”

And the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency pointed out: “We have received no reported sightings of the vessel since April last year.”

Helping to calm fears even more, the BBC reports that maritime analyst Richard Hurley believes the vessel has probably capsized and is now resting at the bottom of the ocean.

(Where, I’m told, rats cannot live.)

“There was a report of a EPIRB signal from her,” Hurley said. “That’s an emergency beacon that normally only activates when the ship has actually sunk.”

And if you’re still concerned, just know that the official spokesman for British Prime Minister, David Cameron, says that this threat isn’t a government priority. When asked if the Navy should intervene, he simply said, “Gosh, we’re almost in a B-movie script development meeting here.”

Pass the hummus.

Follow @JarrettBellini on Twitter.