These images aren’t from a horror show in which alien creatures paralyze highways and melt cars wherever they fall – they’re from Depoe Bay, Oregon. A truck hauling “slime eels” (also known as hagfish for their ghoulish appearance) overturned on a state highway last week, leaving the roadway covered in a debilitating layer of ooze. “What to tell the #drycleaner?” tweeted the Oregon State Police as the clean-up team worked to clear the road.
The hagfish that spilled across the highway were en route to port, from which they would be shipped to Korea; there, hagfish are considered a delicacy. As the truck driver tried to slow down near road construction, containers of hagfish, 7,500 pounds of eels in total, slipped from the truck bed, hitting the pavement and nearby passing cars. The highway was shutdown for several hours as state and local authorities bulldozed and hosed the unlucky hagfish and their accompanying slime off the road.
When hagfish are agitated, they excrete a large amount of the slime observed in the pictures of the flooded highway and wrecked cars. This slime production is actually encouraged by intentionally distressing the hagfish, as their slime is used in some cuisines in a similar manner as one might use egg whites. It only takes one hagfish a few seconds to transform a five-gallon bucket of saltwater into a sticky, slimy mess. This slime can also be used as an unexpected natural fiber, which can be processed into a replacement for oil-based polymers.