Nfld. & Labrador

Random Island UFO sighting immortalized on coin (plus it glows)

An unexplained encounter from 1978 has gotten the Royal Canadian Mint treatment, with a bonus spooky glow.

Coin designed by Fogo Island artist Adam Young

The Royal Canadian Mint's silver collector coin celebrates an unexplained sighting in 1978 in Clarenville. (Royal Canadian Mint )

A strange object seen in the skies near Clarenville in 1978 might not be any closer to being explained, but its eeriness is now immortalized in a glowing coin from the Royal Canadian Mint.

Just five days before Halloween in that year, people spotted a brightly lit object in the sky near Random Island. They called police, and the Clarenville RCMP constable who responded remained at a loss along with the onlookers, as the oval shape hovered for about an hour before vanishing.

The encounter has remained a mystery in the decades since and almost forgotten, until the mint called on Fogo Island artist Adam Young to help create a coin in its honour as part of a collectible series of unexplained Canadian phenomena.

Until that point, Young had never heard of the possible alien visit to the province, but something about the story shook the self-admitted skeptic to the core.

"When they told me about it, I never slept that night. I freaked myself out," said Young, who runs Young Studios in Joe Batt's Arm.

"It's one of those ones where, I've heard lots of UFO stories and kind of rolled my eyes, but this one was hard to roll my eyes at."

This image of the coin gives a hint of what it looks like under black light. (Royal Canadian Mint)

Depicting the unknown

Inspired, Young took on the task and began "a research binge" — diving deep into the story's details and digging up old interviews from the officer involved, Const. James Blackwood.

Having designed a coin before — in 2019, he created a limited edition silver one for the mint — Young said the main challenge was similar to his regular practice of balancing composition and content with artistic flair.

"You want to get everything in there without overwhelming the scene," he said.

In Young's finished version, the UFO swirls above a bay lined with crayon-bright fishing stages and saltbox houses.

The mint amped up the artistic factor by making aspects of the final coin glow under black light. In photos released to the press, the UFO glows in a darkened sky, along with pops of colour from a few lobster pots.

"It's pretty cool," Young told CBC Radio's Newfoundland Morning.

Perhaps imagining extraterrestrial currency, the mint has deviated from the blandly human round coin shapes of Earth, and gone with a rectangular design.

"It's like the shape of a cellphone or a credit card," said Young. 

Artist Adam Young, seen here in a file photo, says being asked twice by the mint to design a coin validates his decision to pursue art full time. (CBC)

No matter the shape, Young said being tapped twice by the mint has been an honour.

"It really does validate my choice in my career path," he said.

Perhaps just as much as the paycheque, Young said hearing from Blackwood himself validated the depiction.

"He wrote me a nice little email and said it brought him right back to that moment. So I was happy to hear that, because I was a bit nervous as to if I got it right," Young said.

The $20 silver coin retails for $129.99 with a limited run of 5,000 but, according to the mint's website, has already sold out. 

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Newfoundland Morning

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