Saturday, February 1, 2014
Lyubov Orlova and the Rats
It really has turned out to be the Trip that Keeps on Entertaining. About 3 and a half years ago my sister, brother,sister-in-law and I went to the Arctic and traveled aboard an old Russian ship, the MV Lyubov Orlova. (“An ice-strengthened Maria Yermolova-class cruise ship”.) The ship was named for Lyobov Petrovna Orlova, a Stalinist era Soviet film star. (You may recall her classics, Circus and Volga-Volga). The saloon was decorated with vintage movie posters. We had a marvelous time. We played 435 games of Bananagrams surrounded by Soviet-kitsch posters. We saw the Aurora Borealis and polar bears: we rode Zodiacs around icebergs the size of three Trader Joes; we dined on raw seal blubber, also fermented seal blubber, the real delicacy.
Immediately following our debarkation, the Orlova headed to St John’s, Newfoundland. There she was impounded by the Canadian authorities for unpaid wages. She ended up staying there for two years. The Russian crew aboard had not been paid and in most cases had not enough money to get back to Russia. We, the last passengers aboard, took up a collection and sent money to the Russian crew, many of whom we had grown quite fond of, despite the language gap, or perhaps abetted by the language gap. Meanwhile, the ship lingered while her owners ignored her. Finally, the Canadians started towing the Orlova down to the Dominican Republic, where she was to be sold for scrap metal. But the Lyubov Orlova never made it to the Sargasso Sea. The towline broke…and to make a short story even longer, the Lyubov Orlova was adrift in the ocean with no one aboard but the rats. That is the end of the real story.
But every so often, when things are otherwise slow in the sensationalist news department. the British press will print some horror story about cannibalistic rats aboard the ghost ship. I still wonder what has happened to those great posters of the lovely Orlova's films.