I’ve seen this argument somewhere before

I think they ripped it off from a theology textbook, simply changing the name of the mystery in question: You Can't Prove There's No Cannibal Rat Ship.

Except, of course, there is a possibility that the Cannibal Rat Ship exists, and there are at least verifiable records that a ship called the Lyubov Orlova once existed. The theologians don’t even have that much of a glimmering of likelihood.


  1. Trebuchet says

    Curse you, PZ. You’ve sent me off down an internet rathole. I won’t be able to rest until I’ve read everything about the Lyubov Orlova.

  2. awakeinmo says

    Cannibal Rat Ghost Ship. It’s just a Faceless Man away from being the distillation of all my nightmares.

  3. Menyambal --- making sambal a food group. says

    Oh, the rats are the cannibals. I was hoping it was the ship that was somehow cannibalistic. Well, nobody can prove it isn’t so it must be. The cannibal ship is out there!

    To be clear, the cannibal ship eats other ships, not people. Anyone who thinks the cannibal ship eats people is a heretic.

    Anybody who thinks the cannibal rats are somehow surviving by eating only each other is silly.

  4. says

    Big ships leak. They have bilge pumps for a reason and the older the ship the more the leaks. The engines are water cooled with sea water and the drive shaft has seals to prevent water coming in but in a non maintained older ship those systems leak water and that is what the pumps are for. And it rains.

    Now some ships without power might stay afloat for 10 years considering how slow the leak might be but this ship was on its way to the junk heap. The likelihood that it is still afloat with no power to run the bilge pumps in over a year would be close to zero.

  5. otrame says


    There you go, trying to insert expertise and FACTS into it. No wonder no one likes skeptics.

    P.S. I hadn’t thought about the necessity of bilge pumps before, never having had anything to do with ships. Thanks for that tidbit of information.

  6. unclefrogy says

    then I see the likelihood of the ship slowly filling with water and the size of the area of the sea the ship was drifting in made it OK to just let it drift unobserved. That seems a rather primitive and crude response to the problem of a ship past its usefulness to me.
    uncle frogy

  7. says

    Silly thing that arbitrarily comes to mind. Family decides to go boating. I don’t remember the whole string of bad luck, but they were having a hard time right from the start. They put the boat in the water, and it’s leaking. One family member was recording the whole thing with his camcorder and zoomed in on a rat who emerged from the boat’s interior and jumped onto the pier. He declares that they should just go home before they all end up dead or something.

  8. says

    froggy, AIUI, the ship was being towed, but the tow line broke in a storm, and being a storm and all, trying to follow and recapture the ship was simply impossible; that’s why it was left adrift, and why it was then lost. There wasn’t a conscious decision to leave it adrift, it just kinda happened.

    And as markmckee said, the chance of it still being afloat is close to zero. (And if it was still afloat, wouldn’t someone’s aerial or satellite recon have seen it by now?

  9. says

    As for those “cannibal rats,” they’re probably not eating each other because of some new virulent plague that will cause a Zombie Apocalypse if they get ashore; they’re eating each other because that’s all they have. They’d probably all have to be gassed or something anyway (if there’s still a ship to gas), but it’s not a Species Extinction Event.

  10. Richard Smith says

    “Do you like the ship? My grandmother had a ship. Nothing to boast of. You could walk around it in an hour, but still it was, it was a paradise for us. One summer, we went for a visit and discovered the place had been infested with rats. They’d come on a fishing boat and gorged themselves on coconut. So how do you get rats off a ship? Hmm? My grandmother showed me… You just leave it and they begin to get hungry. And one by one… they start eating each other until there are only two left. The two survivors… but now they don’t eat coconut anymore. Now, they only eat rat. You have changed their nature. The two survivors. This is what Lyubov Orlova made us.”

  11. mnb0 says

    I wonder whose side PZ will take if the ratboat meets the catboat (which never leaves Amsterdam) on the Atlantic?
    Mysteries, mysteries …..

  12. zxcier says

    Well shit I was on that boat in early 2010 to Antarctica, and I don’t remember seeing any cannibal rats, albeit plenty of retching humans.

    Very sad to hear though, she was a good ship and it was an incredible trip.

  13. blf says

    Cannibal rat ship sounds a lot like the NSA: A out-of-control hunk lurching about with a tendency to wreck anything it crashes into, a lesson in what happens without oversight, and in desperate need of sinking with very little worth salvaging. The rates, however, are probably smarter.