Each day off the coasts of various parts of Canada, hopeful passengers embark on tours that take them on a unique search that of spotting whales at rest or play. Passengers are often rewarded with a glimpse of these majestic creatures; the luckiest disembark with a photo or two. On October 2, 2000, Canada Post will issue four domestic-rate ($0.46) commemorative stamps featuring whales that inhabit Canadian waters. Of the 35 species recorded in these waters, 21 are "common" or "regular." From these 21, two baleen (not-toothed) and two toothed whales have been selected for Canada Posts Whales issue.
The bowhead, also a baleen whale, is so-named for its distinctive bow-shaped skull. Heavier than most large whales for its length, it can grow to almost 14 or 15 metres. Bowheads are mainly blue-black or dark grey over most of their bodies, with cream-coloured patches on the lower jaw, white flashes on the belly, and occasionally some white or pale grey at the tail. Once abundant, it is now confined to Arctic and subarctic regions, relying on a thick layer of blubber to protect it from the cold. Its diet consists of very small crustaceans, which it takes in by slowly moving along with its mouth open.
About the Artist
When Vancouver designer and illustrator Keith Martin began researching the subject matter for the Whales issue, scale became one of the most compelling aspects. His challenge in designing the stamps lay in using the space afforded by a postage stamp to accurately portray the majesty of the largest living animal ever. Resolution came by way of arranging the species into a single scene over the entire stamp pane, with each stamp focusing on a single whale and also carrying a fragment of the blue whale. By this arrangement, all whales are accurately portrayed in their range of relative size and physical characteristics. To carry the scene of this ethereal environment, metallic ink was used to mimic the play of light and current underwater.