By Heidi Zemach for SCN
The Alaska SeaLife Center played host to the ceremonial unveiling of a new U.S. Postal Service stamp featuring a tufted puffin today, Jan 23rd. With the Tufted Puffin 86-cent stamp, the U.S. Postal Service celebrates the distinctive sea bird known for the distinguished tufts of long, yellow feathers that grow from the sides of its head. Seward is a fitting location as tufted puffins and other puffin species can be found on and around the cliffs around Chiswell Island, and many other islands in Resurrection Bay. They also are on display in the aviary at ASLC.
In case you didn’t realize it, the unveiling of a new postal service stamp is considered an extremely important honor as the ceremony only takes place in one spot in the United States. So postmasters from throughout the region, including Seward, Moose Pass, Ninilchik and Whittier, were thrilled to attend, as were members of the Anchorage Philatelic Society and other stamp collector aficionados. They lined up at tables in ASLC’s Bear Mountain Conference Room to be among the first to purchase an 86-cent stamp, and the APS’s “First Day of Issue” tufted-puffin-stamped envelope, which featured an original print of a puffin by Alaska’s Byron Birdsall—although not the tufted kind, an ASLC staff member noted.
Members of the American Legion performed a Presentation of Colors, and the Seward High School Choir, Seahawk Voice, sang the Star Spangled Banner.
The person primarily responsible for the unveiling at ASLC, however, was Seward Postmaster Jerry Nassen, who first suggested the location to his higher-ups in the postal service when contacted about the possibility of an unveiling occurring in the area.
“This is quite the big deal—especially if you’re a stamp collector, or know someone who’s a collector,” Nassen said. “It’s a tremendous honor.” He was careful to distinguish the unveiling day, known as the “Day of Issue,” with the “First Day of Sale,” which is when the stamp actually goes on sale. The length of the line of people purchasing stamps at the event attested to that fact.
It may be hard to believe, but even his little Seward post office does an incredible amount of business, Nassan said. In 2011 alone it delivered 1.5 million letters to people’s post boxes, plus 650,000 magazines and bulk mailers and 150,000 packages, he said. That’s why he might seem bothered when someone asks if he’s seen their letter.
The audience oohed and aah’d appreciatively as Nassen, and Jacqueline Nolan, the Anchorage District Post Office marketing department representative unveiled the stamp’s original artwork, which was very big and bright. Art director Derry Noyes designed the stamp, with the painting by artist Robert Giusti.
Locals expressed disappointment to learn that the artwork will be kept at the Anchorage Post Office, and not here in Seward. But we’ve got the real thing right here: Twelve tufted puffins, and also the more commonly-recognized horned puffins are among 11 different Alaska seabird species at the ASLC aviary.
Dory, an adult female puffin that ASCL uses frequently for educational purposes, stood quietly on her handler Hannah Feltes’ hand, accepting the fish she was occasionally offered, as the aviculturist talked a little about the seabird collection, and the research done monitoring their eggs, and molting processes.