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Dublin: 3°C Friday 4 December 2020

Sitdown Sunday: The true story behind the 'cannibal rat-infested ghost ship'

Settle back in a comfy chair and sit back with some of the week’s best longreads.

Image: Wikipedia

IT’S A DAY of rest, and you may be in the mood for a quiet corner and a comfy chair.

We’ve hand-picked the week’s best reads for you to savour. 

1. How immigration became Britain’s most toxic political issue

A deep dive into the issue of immigration and how it’s been treated by political parties in the UK.

(The Guardian, approx 20 mins reading time)

Just as communities were exposed to the shocks of an unrestrained free market and a shrinking state, they were simultaneously bombarded with stories about “Slovak spongers” and cheating Czechs. Politicians of all stripes fell in line, producing hostile rhetoric and policies in response – and defining the issue as a reflection of supposed concerns over the exact number of arrivals, the “pace of change” in local communities and the need to exert control over migration. This was the catalyst for David Cameron’s foolish 2010 election pledge to introduce a target figure for “net migration” – which the Conservative party failed to meet, again and again, only inflaming public resentment and mistrust over the issue 

2. Cannibal rat-infested ghost ship

The story of how the MV Lyubov Orlova, an old cruise ship, became infested with cannibal rats… 

(News Interactives, approx 22 mins reading time)

For two cruise seasons — 2008 in the Canadian Arctic and 2009-10 in the Antarctic — I lived and worked aboard the Lyubov Orlova. During that time, the ship was my entire world. Nobody would have described the Lyubov Orlova as luxurious, but it was clean and functional. Passengers could have a drink in its tiny, faux-wood-panelled bar, with its emerald green- and gold-striped booths and small mural honouring its movie star namesake.

3. The Grand Canyon

They said that women had no place in the Grand Canyon – but in 1938 two female scientists decided to prove them wrong. 

(Atavist, approx 51 mins reading time)

 Unnamed sources told reporters that the two women in the crew were “one of the hazards, as they are ‘so much baggage’ and would probably need help in an emergency.” They were scientists—botanists, to be precise. “So they’re looking for flowers and Indian caves,” a river runner said. “Well, I don’t know about that, but I do know they’ll find a peck of trouble before they get through.”

4. We <3 Tom Hanks

A nice celebrity profile, for a change.

(New York Times, approx 25 mins reading time)

In our interviews, he doesn’t evade any questions, but he doesn’t spill either. He doesn’t appear to have a need to be known by his public, but he also doesn’t have the same strains of contempt for journalists that I’ve seen from other movie stars. Maybe that’s because he’s never been truly screwed by one, but just as likely it’s because he believes in the truth. “The best articles I’ve ever read that have come out have been an accurate reflection of the time I spent with that journalist,” he said.

5. The strange life and mysterious death of a virtuoso coder

The skeletal remains of Jerold Christopher were found in the woods in southern Ohio. What led to his death?

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(Wired, approx mins reading time)

The three men were scouring a thicket on the edge of a soybean field, hoping to stumble across the buck’s carcass, when Eric noticed a peculiar stonelike object lying on the ground. He knelt down for a closer look and saw that it was a human skull, its jawbone missing but its upper teeth still a healthy shade of white. He and his fellow hunters left the forest at once to call 911.

6. Anna, Illinois

Anna was known as a town where black people can’t go out after sundown. What is it like today?

(ProPublica, approx 25 mins reading time)

A man two stools over from me struck up a conversation. I told him I was a journalist from Chicago and asked him to tell me about this town. “You know how this town is called Anna?” he started. “That’s for ‘Ain’t No N*****s Allowed.’” He laughed, shook his head and took a sip of his beer. The man was white. I am white. Everyone else in that restaurant in Anna was white. Later that night, I realized what shook me most about our conversation: He didn’t pause before he said what he said. He didn’t look around the room to see whether anyone could hear us. He didn’t lower his voice. He just said it.


This award-winning story is about the final journey of a US soldier.

(Esquire, approx mins reading time)

“You always run into the question,” Leatherbee said later, “do I close my eyes, so that emotion won’t be involved, or do I leave them open, so that more emotion will be in the sound? In my opinion, you can’t close your eyes. There’s a person in a casket in front of you. You want to give them as much as you can.”

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday

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