Whales, crabs, octopus or even submarines. Underwater creatures and objects were favourite topics for stamp designers. Assistant Curator Georgina shows her favourite artworks.

With the opening of our new exhibition ‘Voices from the Deep‘, I thought we’d have a look at some of the underwater stamps to have graced our post.


When we think of dinosaurs we tend to think of the walking, chasing kind of Jurassic Park creatures but there also existed sea-dwelling species of dinosaur.


The Ichthyosaurus was a marine reptile on the planet around 200 million years ago. In Greek, its name literally means ‘fish lizard’. When looking at the dinosaur it has a strong resemblance to a dolphin but it is, in fact, a well-adapted reptile.

Coin Cover with the issued dinosaur stamps from 2013 along with a coin bearing a dinosaurs head.

Dinosaurs, Coin Cover, 2013


The plesiosaurus is another marine reptile whose name means ‘near lizard’. It lived around 135 million years ago and the first fossil of this species was discovered by Mary Anning in 1823.


Illustration of a humpback whale breaking the surface of the water.

Original unadopted artwork by Howard Brown and Harriet Bane for the stamp issue Action on Species (4th Series) 2010

Stamp depicting a photo of the head of a humpback whale under the water.

1st NVI, Humpback Whale, Action for Species (4th Series) 2010

Humpback Whales

Humpback Whales can reach up to 52 feet in length and weigh around 79,000 pounds. They feed predominately on krill and small fish and migrate each year to hotter climes to breed and have babies. They are great for whale watchers as they perform ‘breaching’ where they jump out of the water.

Stamp depicting a photo of the head of a sperm whale under the water.

1st NVI, Sperm Whale, Action for Species (4th Series) 2010.

Sperm Whale

The Sperm Whale is the largest of the toothed whales and actually has the largest brain of any living creature. They can hold their breath for up to 90 minutes on some of their longest dives and strangely sleep vertically.

At the bottom of the sea


Starfish are marine invertebrates and generally have five arms. They come in assorted colours and shed their arms as a defensive mechanism which they can later regenerate. Below we have the issued starfish stamp from the Sea Life series of 2007 along with an unadopted design by Mike Brownfield.

Original unadopted artwork of a Starfish by Mike Brownfield for the issue Sea Life 2007


The hermit crab actually scavenges for their shell, this means that as they grow they need to replace them to adapt to their growing bodies. The below painting by Andrew Hutchinson depicts the barnacles attached to the hermit crab shell.

Original unadopted artwork of a Hermit Crab by Andrew Hutchinson for the Sea Life issue 2007


The octopus is a soft-bodied eight-armed mollusc. Their soft bodies allow them to change shape and fit into small spaces, a tactic they use in defending themselves. Other means of protecting themselves are to squirt ink at their attacker or camouflage their appearance.

Stamp depicting a photo of a octopus underwater.

1st NVI, Lesser Octopus, Sea Life, 2007


In 2001 to mark the Centenary of the Royal Navy Submarine Service a series of stamps were produced documenting the vessels. They look at the earliest submarine launched in 1901, the Holland Class through to the 492 ft long Vanguard Class.

2nd NVI, Vanguard Class, Submarines, 2001
45p, Unity Class, Submarines, 2001
65p, Holland Type, Submarines, 2001

The below photo is an unadopted drawing by Eric Ravilious for the Submarine issue of 2001. Eric served as war artist from 1939 and died at the age of 39 when his plane was lost over Iceland.

Photograph of artwork by Eric Ravilious of submarines above and below the water.

Unadopted Submarine artwork by Eric Ravilious.

Hope you’ve enjoyed some of our images of under the sea. Why not come and see our new exhibition ‘Voices from the Deep‘ and discover what can survive under the water.

-Georgina Tomlinson, Assistant Curator (Philately)