Many Canadians may be surprised to learn that coral - which is usually associated with tropical waters - is alive and thriving off our country's coasts. In fact, four different groups, encompassing many species, have been found in both the Atlantic and the Pacific waters of Canada. To illustrate the beauty of these underwater inhabitants, Canada Post and Hong Kong Post have created a joint issue of four domestic rate commemorative stamps featuring nine species of coral. Two of the stamps were designed by Canada Post, and two were designed by Hong Kong Post. These designs are available to collectors in a pane of 16 stamps; an OFDC; a joint OFDC; a souvenir sheet designed by Canada Post; and a souvenir sheet designed by Hong Kong Post.
Corals in Canada's Atlantic and Pacific Waters
Corals are animals, living solitarily or in colonies, that can form reefs or 'forests' on the ocean floor. Coral forests are formed when coral takes a shape said to resemble trees, and some of these forests have been discovered 500 metres and more below the ocean's surface off the coast of Atlantic Canada. Martin Willison, a biology professor at Dalhousie University, asserts that Atlantic Canada may have some of the most spectacular coral forests in the world. Corals include a variety of related groups popularly referred to as soft corals, horny corals, black corals, stony corals, blue corals, and organ-pipe corals. The corals found in the Atlantic and Pacific waters of Canada fall into the first four of these six groups as the last two are strictly tropical.
The Canadian-designed Stamps
Five species of corals found in Canada's Atlantic and Pacific waters are featured on the two Canadian-designed stamps, with three corals on one stamp and two on the other. These stamps can be identified by their blue-black background, which resembles deeper waters. On the left side of the stamp bearing three corals is the North Atlantic pink tree coral, which is found in canyons or gullies along the edge of the continental shelf. To its right is the Pacific orange cup, which is found in shaded areas of the lower regions of Pacific shores. Directly above the 48¢ denomination of this stamp is the North Pacific horn coral, an orangey-tan species common on the walls of Pacific coastal fjords.
On the second Canadian-designed stamp, two species of coral are depicted. The North Atlantic giant orange tree coral, a species that can reach a height of three metres, sits on the left side of this stamp. Occupying the right side of this stamp is a black coral, despite its colour.
The Hong Kong-designed Stamps
Four species of coral are featured on the two Hong Kong-designed stamps, with two on each stamp. These stamps can be identified by their lighter blue background. On the stamp with the background land sloping off to the left are the Dendronepthea gigantea (red), and the Dendronepthea (pink) corals, both of which generally have the form of broccoli or cauliflower and are usually found in deep water where currents are fast.
The second Hong Kong-designed stamp has background land sloping off to the right. On the left side of this stamp is the Tubastrea, which forms branching tube-like colonies in the shape of a star or aster. The last coral, depicted on the right side of this stamp, is the Echinogorgia, which occurs commonly in deeper water and areas that are turbid or polluted.
Designs of the Deep
Geoff Kehrig and Bonnie Zabolotney of Signals Design Group Inc. in Vancouver created the two Canadian stamps in this joint issue. The team also designed the Canadian OFDC. Designer Bon Kwan created the visuals for the remaining two stamps in the joint issue along with the Hong Kong and Canada souvenir sheet. While the subject matter of all four stamps is the same, the backgrounds differ - a deep sea blue-black for the Canadian stamps, and a surface water blue for the Hong Kong stamps.