How ghost ship of cannibal rats turned out to be a duck


“Ghost ship full of cannibal rats could be about to crash into Devon coast.”

Say what you want, but that’s a headline that makes you sit up and take notice. Behind it lies a local news story from Devon.

In brief the story is as follows: The Lyubov Orlana, a 4,250 tonne former arctic cruise ship, broke free while being towed from Canada to the Dominican Republic in 2012. Since then the ship has been adrift somewhere in the Atlantic, which is , admittedly, a pretty big place. However, it turned out that the ship was slowly drifting towards the UK coasts.

“Based on emergency beacons activated last year aboard the ship, it is feared the 40-year-old Yugoslavian liner registered to Russia could crash into the shore of Devon, Cornwall, Ireland or Scotland,” The Plymouth Herald reported.

In itself a good story, you might say. And it gets better. Because of the rats.

In Scotland papers like The Daily Record were also somehow made aware of the ship, which had, at the time the articles about started appearing, been adrift for more than two years.

The Lyubov Orlana was meant to be scrapped, and was worth around £600,000 to anyone who could find her. This might be why The Daily Record could quote a Belgian source who was looking for the ship, a Pim de Rhoodes, 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.”

So there we go; cannibal rats about to invade your coast from a ghost ship. Sounds like the plot for the next incarnation of Snakes on a Plane, but it’s real.

Unfortunately, it turns out that that’s not likely.

The Canadian The Star had a closer look at the ghost ship, and turned up a simple fact that more or less ruined the fun for their British colleagues, even before they had a proper chance to write follow-up stories about stuff like what diseases the cannibal rats might be bringing with them when they made landfall and started their full-scale invasion of British shores.

Here is a snippet from their article, written by Lesley Ciarula Taylor:

‘“The ship has sunk,” a spokesman for the Irish Coast Guard told the Star.

While admitting there is no 100 per cent proof — “You can’t prove a negative” — he said that two distress signals from the emergency position-indicating radio beacon are strong evidence. They only sound when immersed in water.’

In Denmark we have a saying about stories that sound promising but turn out to be untrue. It’s called ‘a duck’.

So in this case you could say that the cannibal rats turned out to be not so much snakes on a plane as a duck.

A fact that probably left journalists along most of the UK west coast going ‘rats!’.


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