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Newsletter #106, June 22, 2007

Canada Post Unveils Captain George Vancouver Stamp on the Shores of English Bay

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Vancouver's desire to make history probably came when he was an ambitious 16-year-old seaman serving on Captain James Cook's ship, the Resolution, during Cook's second great voyage.

Cook sailed with the intention of determining whether an Antarctic continent really existed by exploring the Antarctic region and the South Pacific. Just before Resolution turned north after having sailed as far south as was possible, Vancouver climbed the bowsprit, leaned out over the Antarctic sea toward the polar ice, and established his claim of having been "nearer the south pole than any other man"

By his mid-twenties, he had narrowly escaped death on the island of Hawaii (the day before Captain James Cook was killed on the same island), sailed the world twice and gained his first commission.

Captain George Vancouver Captain George Vancouver
As captain of the Discovery, Vancouver is credited with undertaking the last of the great voyages of exploration embarked upon by 18th century European sailors. During this expedition, he oversaw the return of British territory and property from the Spanish at Nootka and created the first accurate map of the northwest Pacific coast, exploring from the tip of Vancouver Island to the southern end of the Alaska panhandle He bestowed almost 400 place names that are still used today, including the largest island on the west coast of North America and Canada's largest west-coast city, which both carry the name Vancouver.
Vancouver Maritime MuseumIt was only fitting, therefore, that Canada Post should choose to honour the 250th anniversary of George's birth with a commemorative stamp and to unveil it on the lawn of the Vancouver Maritime Museum.

Although the day began cool and drizzly, it cleared up for the festivities, then resumed raining after they were over, George was watching over us.

The turnout was good, and the whole ceremony was well done and enjoyed by all, judging by the line-ups for give-away tricorn hats by the Port of Vancouver, first day covers from Canda Post and Birthday cake by students from Vancouver Community College.

The Vancouver Firefighters Band entertained the throngs.
Captain George Vancouver
The ceremonies began with the introduction of the dignitaries, and the explanation that this was a time sensitive event, so things would have to proceed on schedule. Everyone was so precise that the ceremonies ended about 15 minutes ahead of schedule, allowing for an interlude from the Firefighters Band.
Captain George VancouverMaster of Ceremonies was Vancouver Maritime Museum Executive Director Wesley Wenhardt (at the podium). Other dignitaries (from L to R) are Elanor Smith, Canada Post Regional General Manager, Larry Grant, Musqueam First Nations Elder, Sam Sullivan, Mayor of Vancouver, Bruce Watson, President of the Vancouver Historical Society and Captain Chris Badger, RN, Vice President of the Vancouver Port Authority.
Elder Larry Grant welcomed everyone to the ancestral home of his people in both English and his native language. Mayor Sam sullivan thanked him for the welcome, also in both languages, then proceeded to read the proclamtion declaring June 22nd to be "George Day" in Vancouver.
Captain George VancouverMayor Sullivan and Canada Post's Elanor Smith then presided over the unveiling of the new Captain Vancouver stamp by two officers of Vancouver's finest.

One poster will hang at Vancouver City Hall and another will be displayed in the Maritime Museum.

Bruce Watson of the historical society explained that the decision was made at the start of the planning to celebrate George's birthday, rather than the "discovery" of Vancouver, since it was obvious that people had been living here for 3,000 years and didn't need discovering. He also highlighted George's acknowledged respect for the First Nations culture, as well as the Spanish, who had colonies up the coast.

"The importance of Vancouver's achievements, which went largely unnoticed until after his death, have significant bearing in today's world" explains stamp designer Niko Potton of Fleming Design in Vancouver. "Despite being a long way from home and being treated poorly by the admiralty upon his return, Vancouver selflessly served his King and country by fulfilling his duty. It's that self-sacrifice that to me is the mark of a great man with a great character. I wanted to create a design that focused on the man himself and captured the solitary and isolated position in which he found himself, geographically and personally."

The detail-oriented stamp features a solitary image of Vancouver standing onboard ship, gazing out toward the horizon. The stamp also features a stunning reproduction of Vancouver's authenticated signature running vertically down the right-hand side of the stamp.

Permission to use the signature comes courtesy of the British Columbia Archives. The map and journal entry featured on the official first day cover (OFDC) are reproductions from Vancouver's private journals and are used courtesy of the Maritime Museum in Vancouver. Together, these historic authentic elements on the stamp and OFDC make this issue a distinctive collectible.

Captain George VancouverAt 12:10 after noon, when George's logs showed he sailed past the First Narrows and became the first European to enter Burrard Inlet and the harbour which now bears his name, the 15th Field Artillary fired a salute, which was answered by all the ships in the vicinity blowing their horns, creating a cacophony.

This was followed by a "ballet" of two large tugboats and the Vancouver fireboat doing wheelies off the shore.

The Firefighters Band struck up again, and

everyone lined up to pick up free hats, FDC's and birthday cake and the culmination was the playing and singing of Happy Birthday to George.
Captain George Vancouver"This is a unique design for Canada Post as it's the first time that we've not shown the face of a person commemorated on a stamp," says Danielle Trottier, manager of Stamp Design and Production at Canada Post. "The embossing on the figure of Captain Vancouver makes it appear as if we're actually peering over his shoulder and gazing out with him to the barren horizon. This is truly a romantic and intimate stamp design."

A good day was had by all, Happy Birthday, George.

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