New Zealand Post - official issuer of New Zealand stamps & commemorative coins

Antarctic Seals

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Seals of the Deep South - The six seals illustrated in this issue belong to two seal families which inhabit Antarctica and the deep south.

Issue information

The first family is made up of sea lions and fur seals and the second, true seals. Sea lions and fur seals can be most easily distinguished from true seals by the presence of small external ears. True seals do not have these ear pinna. Of the six seals in the issue only the Hooker's Sea Lion belongs to the sea lion and fur seal family. The rest are members of the family of true seals.

Product listing for Antarctic Seals

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Image Title Description Price
Single Stamp

Single 45c 'Weddell Seal' gummed stamp.

The Weddell seal is dark grey or black and covered with irregular spots, patches and streaks. Weddell seals live in inshore Antarctic waters, rarely straying from land or the pack ice. During winter they live mainly in the water, feeding beneath the ice where the temperature is warmer. They keep breathing holes open by scraping the ice with their teeth. In the spring the cows form colonies and bear pups, then mate again several weeks later. For the remainder of the summer the seals lie around on the ice, swimming, and feeding more as winter approaches.

Single Stamp

Single 50c 'Crabeater Seal' gummed stamp.

Crabeater seals are brownish grey with brown ring-shaped markings on their shoulders and flanks. They have silver grey sides and bellies, and dark limbs. Their fur fades to a creamy white in summer. Like Weddells, Crabeater seals live on and beneath the drifting pack ice in the Antarctic. They are specialised krill feeders, not feeding on crabs as their name suggests. Crabeaters are gregarious seals. They can often be seen using their fore flippers to propel themselves rapidly across the ice.

Single Stamp

Single 65c 'Leopard Seal' gummed stamp.

The Leopard seal is dark grey on the back with dark spots, changing to light grey with light spots on the belly. It is a solitary seal and lives in the outer pack ice of the Antarctic and north through the subantarctic islands to New Zealand. Leopard seals have been reported as far north as the Cook Islands. While the Leopard seal looks ungainly on land, it can move quite quickly across the ice with a caterpillar-like motion, not using its fore flippers at all. In the water it often hangs vertically with just its nostrils showing above the surface.

Single Stamp

Single 80c 'Ross Seal' gummed stamp.

The Ross seal reaches just over two metres in length. It is a plump seal with a short snout and large flippers. Ross seals are dark grey with a darker brown head and flippers and a whitish belly. The new-born pups are white. Very little is known about this solitary seal. They are not common and live almost wholly in the heavy pack ice along the fringe of Antarctica. Rare stragglers have made it to temperate waters. Ross seals eat squid, krill and fish. When disturbed they emit an unusual, tremulous cooing sound which is followed by clicks and a snort.

Single Stamp

Single $1.00 'Southern Elephant Seal' gummed stamp.

These, the largest of all seals, are distinguished by their inflatable trunk-like proboscis. They live in subantarctic waters and sometimes in Antarctic localities, especially between February and May. During the winter they remain at sea, feeding, and in spring move to their breeding grounds where they stay throughout summer. A dominant male can have harems of 20-40 females with subordinate males waiting around the edges for an opportunity to mate. The males fight by roaring and posturing, often engaging in chest-to-chest combat, slashing at each other with their large canine teeth.

Single Stamp

Single $1.80 'Hooker's Sea Lion' gummed stamp.

Hooker's Sea Lions live in New Zealand's subantarctic islands, particularly Enderby Island in the Auckland Islands group. The total population size is small (between 5,000 - 7,000). The adult males take up beach territories in the Auckland Islands in October and gather harems of about 12 females around them. Pups are born in late December and January and are weaned about six or seven months later, although they often remain with their mothers until the following summer. Hooker's Sea Lions eat small fish along with crabs, penguins and other birds.

First Day Cover First day cover with stamps affixed. Cancelled on the first day of issue. $5.45

Technical information

Date of issue: 8 April 1992
Designers: Lindy Fisher, Auckland, NZ
Printer: Southern Colour Print, New Zealand
Stamp size: 35mm x 30mm
Sheet size: 100 stamps per sheet
Process: Lithography
Perforation gauge: 13.5
Paper type: Peterborough Paper Convertors, red phosphor coated, unwatermarked
Period of sale: These stamps remained on sale until 8 April 1993.