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 Smiling Beluga
Of the two toothed whales featured in this issue, the beluga is noted for its seemingly "fixed pleasant smile." Measuring (approximately) a metre and a half long at birth, the beluga can grow to nearly three metres long, with its birth-colour of dark brownish-grey fading to an adult white. The beluga uses its lips and forehead to make a variety of facial expressions, from smiles to frowns. It also emits a variety of sounds, from "moos" and clicks to squeaks and twitters. Living in the shallow coastal waters of the eastern and western Arctic and in the mouth of the St. Lawrence River, the beluga spends almost all of its time near the surface, rarely breaching.
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.