The Pitcairn Islands, a group of four islands in the southern Pacific Ocean, have issued a set of four 1oz silver coins celebrating the magnificent Whales of the Southern Ocean.
The four coins all feature a different whale that has been beautifully engraved on the silver proof coin and set against a partially colourised background. The lower half of the coins are colour treated in shades of deep to clear blue, mimicking the open ocean on a clear day. “WHALES OF THE SOUTHERN OCEAN” appear along the bottom rim, with “1oz 999 Fine Silver” being inscribed along the top. Each coin displays the name of the depicted whale in the clear field in the top third of the reverse face. The Blue Whale, Fin Whale, Humpback Whale and the Sperm Whale complete the set.
The blue whale was named for its colour, a bluish-grey that looks aquamarine under the water.
It can measure 33m, weigh up to 200 tonnes and live for 90 years. It filter-feeds on krill and can consume 3,600kg a day, using throat pleats that help hold more water and thus, more food.
A blue whale can dive up to 30 minutes at a time and descend to depths of 500m. Dives are separated by 8-15 "blows" - a powerful 6m blast of water as thick as a man's arm.
Blue whales hold just about every record for animal size - a human to a whale is like a mouse to a human. Its tongue alone would overload a good sized truck and a child could crawl down its main artery! In spite of its bulk, it can swim at over 30km/h – usually alone or in pairs.
Its conservation status is classified as endangered after nearly being driven to extinction through intensive hunting.
The fin whale gets its name from the fin on its back, near the tail.
Fin whales can measure 27m, weigh up to 80 tonnes and live for 90 years. Its back and sides are dark grey to black with the belly being white.
It feeds mainly on krill but also eats schooling fish. It uses its baleen plates for filter-feeding and has been known to consume 2,800kg of food a day.
When hunting for food, it can dive for up to 20 minutes to depths of up to 500m. It usually exhibits 5-8 "blows" before a long dive and rarely breaches out of the water.
It is the fastest swimming of all the large whales and is sometimes referred to as the "greyhound of the sea", swimming at up to 48 km/h in short bursts when alarmed.
Often found in small pods of 2-7 individuals, fin whales behave co-operatively to be more effective feeders. Their conservation status is currently classified as endangered after being heavily hunted.
The name "humpback whale" refers to the high arch of the whale's back when it dives.
Humpback whales can measure 15m, weigh up to 40 tonnes and live for 50 years. It is black on the top, and mottled black and white underneath.
They filter-feed by circling around schools of small fish or krill, making a cylindrical net of bubbles, then lunging in with mouths wide open. A whale can consume 1,361kg of food a day.
Generally a slow swimmer, it can dive to up to 210m but usually for only 6-7 minutes. After diving, its "blow" from its double blowhole is quite characteristic.
It is renowned for its "singing" and acrobatic displays, such as breaching or slapping the surface with its fins, tail or head. Its fins are up to 5m in length, relatively the longest of any whale.
While humpback whales do live in groups (pods), they tend to stay together for only a short time. Their conservation status is classified as least concern.
The sperm whale gets its name from the oil producing organ located in its head known as spermaceti.
An adult male can grow to 18m, weigh up to 63 tonnes and live for 70 years. It has a bluish-grey, or light brown wrinkled skin.
It is the largest type of toothed whale. It feeds on giant squids and its strong teeth are designed for grasping and disabling this slippery prey.
When hunting food, sperm whales can dive to 900m. It is the deepest diving of all whales, spending the longest underwater too (90-140 minutes). It can swim at speeds of up to 37km/h.
Its large, squared head is one third of its body size. Its blowhole directs the "blow" forwards and left about 5m. This "blow" is the most characteristic of any whale.
Sperm whales live in groups called pods. Males are usually solitary. Its conservation status is classified as vulnerable.
The coins all have a shared obverse that is anchored by the Ian Rank-Broadley effigy of HM Queen Elizabeth II at it's centre. Surrounding the Queen's portrait are the obligatory descriptors for ruler, country of issue, denomination and date of issue. They follow the rim in a clockwise direction and read : “ELIZABETH II”, “PITCAIRN ISLANDS”, “TWO DOLLARS” and “2016”.
The coins are issued in a clear perspex display case, along with a numbered certificate of authenticity. As already mentioned the coins are struck from 1oz of pure 999 Fineness silver and measures 40mm(1.5748 inch) in diameter. The coins are minted and distributed by the New Zealand Mint and carries a limited mintage of 2000 coins per design. All coins can be ordered directly from the New Zealand Mint's website. The are listed for US$80.00 each upon release.
To be completely honest – when I first heard about these coins I was not impressed. It sounded like just another wildlife themed silver round collection. But having seen the designs I now have to admit that these are very attractive coins. Anyone interested in marine conservation or marine mammals should simply love a set like this.