In Nunavik, Quebec, far to the north on the Ungava Peninsula, lies a natural wonder that few people, even Canadians, have heard about: Pingualuit Crater Lake. The Royal Canadian Mint has released a $50 dollar silver coin that depicts the lake’s beauty and gives a visual idea of how it came to be. Not only is the reverse design in colour and richly detailed, but it also includes a secret embedded image that only reveals itself under black light, included with your purchase.
History of the Pingualuit Crater
Ungava Peninsula is a stark, moonlike landscape. It is dotted with glacial lakes of irregular shape. Pingualuit Crater Lake stands out for its nearly perfect round shape. The name comes from an Inuit word referring to a skin blemish.
Approximately 1.4 million years ago, Pingualuit Crater was formed by a large meteorite striking the earth. By the standards of impact craters, this is relatively recent. At 3.4 kilometres in diameter, it is also comparatively small. Melting glaciers and precipitation with no outlet filled the crater with water, creating a deep lake.
The Inuit in the region have known of the lake for centuries. They regard it as a powerful site that offers healing and revitalization. The outside world first learned of the lake in the early 1940s when U.S. Army planes flew over it. Aircrews started using it as a navigational aid because of the distinctiveness of its colour and shape.
Geological expeditions began during the 1950s, but it wasn’t until 1988 that impactites, rocks formed from the impact of the meteorite hitting the earth, confirmed their origin. The site has been known alternatively as the Ungava Crater, the New Quebec Crater, and the Chubb Crater after a prospector who erroneously believed he would find diamonds at the site.
Unique Features of the Crater
Pingualuit Crater was the first meteorite impact crater discovered in Canada. It boasts several unique features that make it of interest to scientists and amateur geology enthusiasts alike:
- Shape: Meteorites usually strike the earth at an angle, but the one that formed the Pingualuit Crater appears to have struck almost vertically, creating a nearly perfect circle.
- Colour and Clarity: The water in Pingualuit Crater Lake appears a deep blue and is crystal clear. There are no inlets or outlets, and it is fed entirely by precipitation.
- Arctic Char: Despite having no inlet or outlet, there is a species of fish called Arctic char living in the lake. The fish are adapted to survive on very little food. No one quite knows how they got there.
Reverse Design of the Coin
The reverse design of the coin is the work of Canadian artist Neil Hamelin. Viewed under normal light, it depicts the deep blue of the lake contrasted against the white tundra beyond it under a brilliant star field and a detailed image of the moon. A few shooting stars, really small meteors igniting as they enter Earth’s atmosphere, are visible as well.
Under a black light, the tundra, moon, and stars glow more brightly. The black light also reveals a scene similar to the one that must have occurred 1.4 million years ago when the crater was formed: A large meteor, on fire but too large to burn up completely, hurtling toward the surface of Earth. The actual meteorite was destroyed upon impact, exploding with the force of 250 megatons of dynamite, but here it is captured forever just before the collision.
Appeal of the Crystal Eye of Nunavik Coin From the Royal Canadian Mint
Pingualuit Crater Lake is a hidden treasure, a unique ecological phenomenon that must be preserved. Few people can visit it due to its remote location but, in a sense, this coin makes it accessible to anyone. It would make a great gift for anyone interested in coin collecting, geology, and Canada’s natural history. Find it for sale at Colonial Acres.