A Ghost Ship Full of Cannibal Rats Has Disappeared in the AtlanticS

A massive ghost ship has been missing in the Atlantic since last February, along with its potential cargo of "disease-ridden cannibal rats," via BBC Future. Now, it looks like it's headed for the UK.

The Lyubov Orlova was first misplaced on its way from a harbor in Newfoundland, Canada, to the Dominican Republic, where it was to be sold as scrap. A storm sent it loose into the ocean, however, and the Canadian government decided to cut its losses and let it and its crew of hundreds of starving vermin drift. And that's the last anyone saw of it.

It seems completely impossible that today, in the time of Google Earth, that a 1,400-ton ocean liner could completely disappear. But New Scientist ran a fascinating profile by Richard Fisher on the mystery last month that explains why finding the former polar tourist vessel is so damn difficult. The ever-growing search area, plus the fact the abandoned boat might already be underwater, has made actually locating it nearly impossible.

The closest they've come is an emergency signal broadcast from the ship, about 10 months ago, that placed it about 700 miles from Ireland. Even with that guidance, it couldn't be found.

The New Scientist report also notes that maritime law states that tossing a rope on a derelict vessel allows you to claim it as your own. Which, incredible.

BBC Future reports that automatic identification system (AIS) satellites could be used to locate the MV Lyubov Orlova, which turned off its beacon—it would be identified amongst the active ships as the lone radar blip not broadcasting. For now, it's a freaky unknown (surely coming to a theater near you sometime soon). [New Scientist, BBC Future]

Lead image by Maggie & David/Creative Commons