These images of a car crash posted by the Oregon State Police have gone viral, largely because of how bizarre the incident was. They posted the images of the accident on Twitter on Thursday.
The pictures show a car with what appears to be water and eels pouring out of it and spilling out onto the road.
The police department initially offered no explanation of the incident, just more intriguing images of the creatures lying there on the highway.
The fire department also posted videos of the "eels" writhing around on the floor.
The tweets went viral, with many people asking what on Earth was going on.
So what happened here? Well, we finally have an explanation. After a lot of teasing, the Oregon State Police gave an explanation on their website about the incident, in a post titled "Slime Eel Crash on Highway 101".
They explain that the Mitsubishi truck (seen some distance from the slime-covered cars in the photos) was transferring 7,500 pounds of hagfish, known as "slime eels", despite not actually being eels, up the highway. When the vehicle was flagged to stop by a traffic cop, the driver, Salvatore Tragale, attempted to stop. Unfortunately, the transfer of weight caused one of the containers to come loose, and slide onto the road and tip over. The other containers soon followed suit, and separated from the bed of the truck, spilling onto the highway.
When one of the loose containers struck the Nissan car (covered in hagfish in the photographs above) it caused a pileup of cars behind it. The cars were covered in eels, with the Nissan at the front, driven by Kim Randall, 64, the unlucky recipient of the most fish.
Unfortunately for all involved, when hagfish become stressed they secrete mucus, which is the slime that can be seen in the photos and this video, captured by a witness.
Hagfish slime is created when seawater interacts with two different ingredients secreted by the eels' slime glands: mucin vesicles, which rapidly swell and burst in seawater, forming a gloopy net of mucus strands, and threads that are rich in a type of fiber called an intermediate filament.
The goop has all sorts of interesting properties. The strands of slime threads are 100 times thinner than a human hair but 10 times stronger than nylon, and they could be used in everything from protective clothing to bungee cords in the future.
But that's probably of little comfort to the fire department that had to clean the mess up.