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Cannibal Rat-Infested Ghost Ship is the nickname of the Lyubov Orlova, a 1976 Yugoslavian cruise ship that became a floating derelict after being abandoned in 2013.
The Lyubov Orlova, named after the Russian film star, served as an expedition cruise ship beginning in 1976 for the Soviet Union Far East Shipping Company. In February 2012, the ship was sold to Neptune International Shipping to be scrapped and was docked in St. John’s harbour in Newfoundland. On January 23rd, 2013, the ship was towed out for delivery to the Dominican Republic. One day later, the ship began floating out to sea when the tow line broke. After being recovered by Canadian authorities, the ship was set loose into international waters.
On February 24th, 2013, the Where Is Orlova? blog was launched, featuring news and sightings of the ship. On January 23rd, 2014, the British tabloid The Sun published an article about the Lyubov Orlova, which included an interview with salvage hunter Pim de Rhoodes who speculated that the ship may be infested with cannibal rats and heading for the coast of England.
The same day on January 23rd, 2014, several news sites published articles about the derelict vessel, including Gawker, Daily Record, The Independent, The Telegraph and Uproxx. Meanwhile, Redditor Happyginger submitted The Independent article to the /r/worldnews subreddit, where it received more than 5,800 up votes and 1,100 comments in the first week. Also on January 23rd, the Smithsonian published an article refuting the claims that the ship is heading towards English waters, citing statements by the Irish Coast Guard and the U.K. Maritime and Coastguard Agency. On January 24th, The Guardian published an article about the ship, containing a statement by the UK coastguard announcing that the vessel may have already sunk:
“The Maritime and Coastguard Agency 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.”
On January 26th, Fox News published reported that British officials believe the ship had sunk due to volatile storms in the region. On the following day, NPR’s The Two-Way blog published an article containing a revised statement from Rhoodes, who acknowledged that they rats may have all died over the course of the last year.