1.4 million years ago, something remarkable happened in the remote wilderness of northern Quebec: a meteor crashed down with an estimated impact 8,500 times stronger than the atomic bomb that dropped on Hiroshima. What it left behind: a massive, circular crater in the earth — a site that is still steeped in mystery and wonder.
And now there is a unique coin to celebrate this geological marvel now known as the Pingualuit Crater: Crystal Eye of Nunavik.
Earlier this year, the Royal Canadian Mint released a colourized coin to commemorate the enigmatic crater. The $50 piece also comes with a black light flashlight that illuminates the meteor’s impactful crash to Earth. Both views provide a breathtaking rendering of the historic crater’s beauty and its otherworldly origin story.
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Whether you’re a geologist, space lover, stargazer or history enthusiast — or simply appreciate cool coins — this commemorative piece is worth a second look.
Black light brings the story alive
The obverse of the coin sets the scene for the meteor’s origin. A portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, designed by Susanna Blunt, is set against a galaxy of stars and planets. The dates “1952” and “2022” are separated by four pearls, representing the number of effigies inscribed on Canadian coins during the queen’s reign.
The reverse side of the coin tells the crater’s story in two exciting parts. In regular light, the coin displays the “crystal eye” in rich, vibrant colour. The beautiful blue Pingualuit Crater Lake appears on a barren landscape, with the moon looming large in the background. A vast starry night sky fills the space above, while three meteoroids streak downward — foreshadowing what’s to come.
Under black light, the meteor is revealed in fiery glory as it hurtles toward Earth in its historic collision course with the prehistoric Ungava Peninsula below. In its path, the circular Pingualuit Crater Lake is cast in an ethereal indigo glow.
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Canadian artist Neil Hamelin, who designed the meteor’s depictions, enjoyed bringing one of Canada’s most phenomenal natural sites to life in currency form. “It was an incredible amount of fun designing this coin and telling the story of pre- and post-impact of the Pingauluit Crater. I hope this coin will have a similar impact!” he explains.
A sacred place, a navigational aid
The Pingauluit Crater (Pingualuit means “where the earth rises”), located in the Pingauluit National Park, has long been considered a sacred healing place by the local Nunavimmiut people. However, the site remained a well-kept secret from the rest of the world until 1943, when the crew of a US Army Air Force plane spotted the vivid blue and unusually circular lake from the air. The striking crater then became a key navigational landmark for pilots. By the 1950s, geological expeditions to the remote location began.
The crater, formerly known as Chubb Crater and New Quebec Crater, has a diameter of 3.4 kilometres and steep edges that rise for 160 metres, and cradles a 400-metre deep lake. What makes the lake particularly interesting: There are no connections to other bodies of water, and lake sediments survived the last ice age. Which means it has some of the purest fresh water on the planet. And it’s breathtaking to behold, if you get the opportunity.
For the rest of us, the Pingualuit Crater: Crystal Eye of Nunavik coin is a unique way to experience an extraordinary geological marvel in Canada’s remote north — a magical blue gem whose life began in outer space.
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Diameter: 65.25 mm
Face value: $50
Manufacturer: Royal Canadian Mint
Weight: 157.6 grams, 5 troy ounces
Purity: 99.99% pure silver
Features: Black light paint technology (flashlight included)
Start your own collection of historic Canadian coins
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