A Ghost Ship With Cannibal Rats? A Story Too Grim To Be True

Newspapers from the U.K. to the U.S. were reporting a sensational story this week about an abandoned cruise ship drifting across the Atlantic with a crew of cannibal rats aboard. It sounded too outrageous to be true, so we dug into the story and smelled, well, a rat.

JACKI LYDEN, HOST:

We've been following a tale in the papers this week about an abandoned cruise ship drifting across the Atlantic, filled with cannibal rats. This ship, an old Russian liner called the Lyubov Orlova, broke free from its towing vessel in a storm and since then it's been making its way towards England supposedly with a cargo of rats who had nothing to eat except each other, which made the editors at the British paper "The Daily Mail" quite nervous, to judge by this article.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Could this Russian ghost ship infested with cannibal rats beach in Britain? Experts fear storms have driven an abandoned cruise liner towards land after Canadian tow ship lost it a year ago.

LYDEN: And not to be outdone by the Brits, the "New York Daily News" had this to say.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: The Lyubov Orlova has been detected off the coast of Scotland. Its only passengers are demented, disease-ridden rats feeding off each other.

LYDEN: The story of the bloodthirsty rats was attributed to one man, a salvage hunter named Capt. Pim de Rhoodes, who was quoted again and again. But when we reached Capt. de Rhoodes, he changed his tale. We asked him whether there are killer rats onboard the ship, and this is what he had to say.

CAPT. PIM DE RHOODES: I think that maybe if there were rats at all, they'd probably died anyway because it's a year ago. They can't survive longer than four or five days without water and food, so it's probably empty.

LYDEN: For all of us who were enjoying a good story, rats. You're listening to NPR News.

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