A truck driving along a coastal highway near Depoe Bay, Oregon tipped its contents onto the roadway last Friday, July 14, while attempting to make a high-speed stop. While auto accidents are a daily occurrence, the contents of the truck were highly unusual and resulted in one of the most bizarre accident sites the Oregon State Police have ever witnessed.
It turns out the truck was carrying 7,500 pounds (3.4 tonnes) of hagfish when it tipped. Hagfish are a type of jawless fish which are most well-known and curious for their unique ability to produce and secrete a milky, viscous slime when distressed. A single hagfish can produce enough slime to instantly and entirely fill a 5-gallon (20-liter) bucket when it perceives a threat. For that reason, the hagfish is also referred to as the “slime eel.” Thus, when the thousands of eels the truck was carrying spilled out onto the roadway, they instantly created a thick coating of slime that covered the southbound lane of highway 101 and several unfortunate cars.The scene was eerily reminiscent of Ghostbusters II.
The Depoe Bay fire department was called in (a few minor injuries were reported) and attempted to hose the slime off of cars and the roadway, but the thick, fibrous eel sludge proved too difficult; bulldozers were eventually brought in to scrape the intertwined, slime-covered fish off of the highway. The company that was shipping the eels returned to collect and dispose of the slimy, stinking carcasses with an excavator the day after the accident.
Based on fossil records, it is believed that hagfish have gone unchanged for over 300 million years. The bizarre, slimy fish creatures are somewhat of a taxonomic oddity due to the fact that they possess a skull but no real vertebra; hagfish are still technically classified as vertebrates, however, due to rudimentary bone-like structures running through the lengths of their bodies.
The slime eels were being transported to a processing facility where they were to be shipped to South Korea, where they are eaten as a delicacy. At least that’s one country I can cross off my travel wish list. Mal appetit.