René-Levasseur Island, “The Eye of Quebec,” is visible even from outer space.
The Eye of Quebec is an amazing geological structure that was formed by the impact of a meteorite 214 million years ago. A big one, for that matter. It was about 5 km in diameter, and would have hit Earth at a speed of 17 km/s – making it the fifth most powerful known impact our planet has seen. The event formed a crater roughly 100 km in diameter, the centre of which forms the island we know today.
The place became a circle-shaped artificial island when the Manicouagan reservoir was flooded in 1970, merging two crescent-shaped lakes: Mouchalagane Lake on the western side and Manicouagan Lake on the eastern side. The resulting René-Levasseur Island is the largest artificial island in the world.
Here’s a hi-res image of what it looks like as seen from a space shuttle (north is to the lower right).
Th Eye of Quebec is one of the oldest known impact craters. Research has shown that impact melt within the crater has an age of 214 ± 1 million years. But since this impact happenned 12 ± 2 million years before the end of the Triassic, scientists are positive that it could not have been the cause of the Triassic-Jurassic extinction event that wiped out dinosaurs.
Some sicentists speculate that the Manicouagan crater may have been part of a multiple impact event which also formed the Rochechouart crater in France, Saint Martin crater in Manitoba, Obolon’ crater in Ukraine, and Red Wing crater in North Dakota. David Rowley, a geophysicist at the University of Chicago, and John Spray of the University of New Brunswick and Simon Kelley of the Open University, discovered that the five craters appeared to form a chain, which could indicate the breakup and subsequent impact of an asteroid or comet, similar to the well observed string of impacts of Comet Shoemaker–Levy 9 on Jupiter in 1994.
The island has been subject of an ongoing legal battle, with the Innu First Nation of Betsiamites struggling to protect its indigenous land from logging. The Quebec Court of Appeal has ruled in favour of resuming logging activities, even though the island has been proposed as a Canadian National Park, an ecological reserve, a biodiversity reserve and an exceptional geological site. There’s an exceptional concentration of old-growth boreal forest stands on the island, and we believe it should stay there forever.