A deserted cruise ship crawling with cannibal rats is adrift in the Atlantic and thought to be heading towards Britain, say marine experts.
The 91-metre Lyubov Orlova has been floating around the North Atlantic since being set adrift off the Canadian coast a year ago and coastguards believe a series of storms have driven her thousands of miles towards UK shores.
Since being abandoned by her crew, it is feared the 40-year-old Soviet vessel may have become home to hordes of rats, eating each other to survive.
Originally built to carry 110 passengers to remote locations in the arctic, the boat was impounded in Newfoundland in a row over unpaid debts in 2010 and her unpaid crew walked out.
She remained in port for two years before orders came in to tow her to the Dominican Republic to be scrapped.
When the tow line broke in stormy conditions in January last year, the Canadian government ordered another ship to haul her out to sea and cut her loose.
The 4250-tonne ship’s position remains unknown despite several attempts to find her.
In March last year satellites identified a mystery object large enough to be the ship off the north-west coast of Scotland but search planes found nothing.
Salvage hunters are keen to trace the liner in order to cash in upon her £600,000 ($1.1 million) scrap value.
Pim de Rhoodes, a Belgian-based marine missions specialist who is looking for the Lyubov Orlova, told The Sun newspaper: “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.”
Experts believe the boat is still afloat because her four life-raft transmitters have not been set off as they would have been if she had sunk.
Two distress beacons were activated last March but they are thought to have come from life rafts which broke away from the ship and fell into the ocean.
The ship is most likely to make landfall on the west coast of Ireland, Scotland or Cornwall.
Irish coastguard chief Chris Reynolds said: “There have been huge storms in recent months but it takes a lot to sink a vessel as big as that. We must stay vigilant."