What's creepier than an unmanned ghost ship floating aimlessly across the ocean? An unmanned ghost ship crawling with disease-ridden cannibal rats, of course.
Thursday, several British outlets including the Daily Mirror declared an abandoned cruise ship named Lyubov Orlova filled with — all-caps — "CANNIBAL" rats is headed to the British coastline. The dramatic story quickly caught on.
"Officials say the 40-year-old ship was pushed across the north Atlantic by high winds and is now nearing the British coastline." (Via ABC)
"Now, no people are on the ship, but experts say there are hundreds of rats still on board that have been eating each other to survive." (Via WZZM)
If it sounds too bizarre to be true, well ...
A science writer for NBC says: "It made for the tastiest click bait since 'Sharknado!' But alas, there's not much behind this rat tale."
LiveScience says the Lyubov Orlova has been lost at sea since January of 2013, when a storm broke the line that was towing her to the Dominican Republic to be sold as scrap metal.
Most of the ship's life-vessel emergency beacons, which are designed to activate when they hit the water, haven't gone off. According to the International Business Times, this means the ship probably hasn't sunk.
But Salon reports "it's mostly conjecture" that the ship is headed to Britain or Scotland, as there's been no recent sign of the ocean liner.
And now to the fun part — the cannibal rats. Many news outlets have quoted an "expert" who says rats are on board — and that's actually probably true. But here's where that idea came from.
A Belgian salvage hunter named Pim de Rhodes has been searching for the ship to harvest the estimated $820,000 worth of scrap metal , according to NPR.
The Sun quotes him as saying: "She is floating around out there somewhere. There will be a lot of rats, and they eat each other. If I get aboard, I'll have to lace everywhere with poison."
What many outlets weren't reporting, however, is the surprising number of abandoned ships floating in the sea.
Quartz reports an average of 146 ships were lost each year between 2001 and 2010. Even with 42 percent of those ships sinking, there are still a lot of ghost ships haunting the waters.
That, of course, leads to many environmental concerns over these lost ships, as they could be releasing mercury, mold, metals and, of course, fuel into the ocean's depths.