Pingualuit Crater and its pristine lake in Northern Quebec’s Ungava Peninsula is nearly a perfect circle.
During a 1950 expedition, a Globe and Mail news correspondent called it the eighth wonder of the world. But for the native Inuit in the Northern Quebec or Nunavik region, it was traditionally known as “the Crystal Eye of Nunavik” because of the clarity of its waters.
Pingualuit is one of the deepest lakes in North America. As it is fed entirely by precipitation, with no inlets or outlets, it is one of the most transparent lakes in the world. It is said to be one of the purest freshwater lakes on the planet but the water is only free of ice three months out of the year.
Currently part of a national park in the Ungava Pensinsula about 100 kilometres south-west from the Nunavik community of Kangiqsujuaq, Pingualuit Crater looks like a perfect circle when you see it on maps.
It has tall, puckered hills as a rimmed shore all around the perimeter. That is because the lake was created by a meteorite crashing into the Earth over 1.4 million years ago, with 8,500 times the force of the Hiroshima atomic bomb. That crash left in its wake a crater with a diameter of 3.44 kilometres and a depth of 400 metres.
While it is a relatively young crater, Pingualuit is believed to have withstood two ice ages.
Second World War pilots used the perfectly circular landmark as a navigational tool during their missions. Their findings inspired subsequent expeditions sponsored by the Royal Ontario Museum and the National Geographic Society.
In the 1950s, the crater was named Chubb Crater, after an Ontario prospector.
Fred Chubb had seen photos of the mysterious landscape and was fascinated by the moon-like surroundings, lack of trees against the horizon and the interesting shape of the crater’s rim and lake. Initially, Chubb believed the lake to be a source of diamonds because it looked like it had originally been a volcano.
The crater was later named New Quebec Crater in 1954 before receiving its current name based on its shape in 1999. Pingualuit means “pimple” in the local Inuit language dialect. In 2004, it and its surrounding area became part of the Pingualuit National Park.
Today, Nunavik Parks runs a few different excursion packages for tourists interested in visiting Pingualuit Crater and its crystal clear lake. Two available guided tour packages are all-inclusive nine-day stays at a full-service camp, including accommodation, transportation, gear, meals and continental-style breakfasts. You can learn more about the Pingualuit Crater tourism packages at the Nunavik Parks website.