The 10 Weirdest Spills in Nature

Strange Substances

This photograph shows windrows of emulsified oil (bright orange) sprayed w/dispersant. The photo taken on April 26, 2010 as part of an aerial observation overflight. Credit NOAA.

This photograph shows windrows of emulsified oil (bright orange) sprayed w/dispersant. The photo taken on April 26, 2010 as part of an aerial observation overflight. Credit NOAA.

From molasses to rubber ducks, some strange substances have spilled into waterways and onto roadways. Here are some of the highlights.


blackstrap molasses

Hundreds of thousands of gallons of molasses spilled in Honolulu Harbor, Hawaii, last week. (Image credit: Mona Makela (opens in new tab) | Shutterstock (opens in new tab))

A molasses pipeline in Honolulu Harbor, Hawaii, last week was pumping the syrupy substance onto a ship when it sprung a leak, dumping hundreds of thousands of gallons of the goo into the ocean. The sugary fluid, which has sunk to the bottom, has killed thousands of fish, attracting sharks and other scavengers. It's not the first molasses mishap. A truck in Wagontire, Ore., swerved to avoid a deer in 2008, spilling hundreds of gallons of molasses over the highway. And in 1919, during the Boston Molasses Disaster, a tank carrying 2.5 million gallons of molasses burst, flooding the city's streets and killing 21 people.


beer glass

Beer drinkers with a family history of alcoholism may get a big dopamine surge from the taste of beer alone. (Image credit: Rita Juliana | Stock Xchng)

The tasty golden beverage has baptized highways numerous times. In 2012 alone, trucks and tractor-trailers spilled 77,000 lbs. (35,000 kilograms) of Budweiser onto a Maryland interstate, 55,000 lbs. (25,000 kg) of Heineken and Amstel Light on Interstate-95, and 43,000 lbs. (19,500 kg) of beer on a North Carolina interstate, Huffington Post reported.

Whale guts

dead whale

(Image credit: Israel Hervas Bengochea (opens in new tab) | Shutterstock)

In 2004, a whale carcass exploded while being transported from a beach where it died to a laboratory in the Taiwanese city of Tainan, according to BBC News. Gas buildup inside the decomposing cetacean was thought to be responsible for the explosion, which took 13 hours and 50 workers to clean up.


glue spilling

(Image credit: neiromobile (opens in new tab) | Shutterstock)

When a truck carrying construction glue collided with a bus in Chengdu City, China, it dowsed the street with its sticky contents. Firefighters tried — unsuccessfully — to remove the glue by diluting it with water guns, and some observers even got stuck in it. The adhesive was finally dissolved using chemicals.

Fake — and real — blood

bloody hands, insensitive to pain

(Image credit: ChameleonsEye (opens in new tab) | Shutterstock (opens in new tab))

A truck carrying 8,000 gallons (more than 30,000 liters) of a Japanese synthetic blood drink, inspired by the HBO series "True Blood," caused a gory mess when it hit a curb and crashed in Sugar Land, Texas, in 2008, reported. The year before, in Oregon, 4,000 of real pig blood spilled from a truck carting animal waste from a processing plant.

Rubber duckies

rubber ducks

(Image credit: Jamie Wilson (opens in new tab) | Shutterstock)

In 1992, 29,000 rubber duck toys, being shipped from China to the U.S. company The First Years Inc, washed overboard in the Pacific Ocean, the Daily Mail reported. Some 10,000 of the duckies floated northward, while the remainder took a southerly route. They have washed up in Hawaii, Australia and even the Arctic.


Bees huddled into a hive

New research indicates that individual honey bees differ in personality traits such as novelty-seeking. (Image credit: L. Brian Stauffer)

In the past few years, honeybees have spilled onto highways in Montana, Canada and California, where 10 million to 16 million angry buzzers responded by stinging firefighters, police and drivers. Honeybee hives are regularly shipped to farms around the country to pollinate crops, since colony collapse disorder has decimated local bee populations.

Powdered milk

glass of milk, calcium, bone strength

(Image credit: Zsuzsanna Kilian | Stock Xchng)

No use crying over it — the white powder that blanketed a New Zealand highway when a drunk truck-driver crashed his trailer wasn't snow but, in fact, powdered milk. Fortunately, the trucking company swept up the mess before it rained and became a smelly, milky mess.

LEGO pieces

Lego toys

(Image credit: Lego)

In 2000, millions of the popular LEGO plastic toys went for a swim when a ship hit by a rogue wave dumped a container full of them overboard. The beloved blocks have now bobbed through the Northwest Passage to the shores of Alaska, one scientist calculates.



(Image credit: Money Image via Shutterstock (opens in new tab))

While it may not grow on trees, money has flooded public streets on multiple occasions. In 2004, an armored truck crashed on the New Jersey Turnpike, spilling $2 million in coins. In 2005, another truck caught fire in Alabama, spilling $800,000 in quarters. And in 2008, a driver on his way to the Miami Federal Reserve fatally crashed, spewing $185,000 in nickels.

Staff Writer
Tanya was a staff writer for Live Science from 2013 to 2015, covering a wide array of topics, ranging from neuroscience to robotics to strange/cute animals. She received a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a bachelor of science in biomedical engineering from Brown University. She has previously written for Science News, Wired, The Santa Cruz Sentinel, the radio show Big Picture Science and other places. Tanya has lived on a tropical island, witnessed volcanic eruptions and flown in zero gravity (without losing her lunch!). To find out what her latest project is, you can visit her website.