Alaska (AK) State, History And Facts

  • Alaska State

Alaska was the 49th state in the USA; it became a state on January 3, 1959.

State Abbreviation - AK
State Capital - Juneau
Largest City - Anchorage
Area - 656,425 square miles [Alaska is the biggest state in the USA]
Population - 626,932 (as of 2000) [Alaska is the 48th most populous state in the USA]
Name for Residents - Alaskans
Major Industry - oil (petroleum)

  • State Flag

The official state flag of Alaska was officially adopted in 1959. The golden stars represent the Big Dipper (an asterism in the constellation Ursa Major, the Big Bear) and the North Star, also called Polaris (representing Alaska's northern location). This beautiful flag was chosen from a flag-designing contest. It was designed in 1926 by a 13-year-old Native American boy named Bennie Benson. Bennie was from the village of Chignik; he won a 1,000-dollar scholarship and a watch for winning the contest.

Major Rivers - Yukon River, Kuskokwim River, Colville River, Copper River
Major Lakes - Iliamna Lake, Aleknagik Lake, Becharof Lake, Clark Lake, Minchumina Lake
Highest Point - Mt. McKinley - 20,320 feet (6,194 m) above sea level - this is the highest point in the USA.
Number of Boroughs (Counties) - 27
Bordering US States - none
Bordering Country - Canada
Bordering Body of Water - Arctic Ocean, Pacific Ocean, Beaufort Sea, Bering Sea, Gulf of Alaska

Origin of the Name Alaska - The word Alaska is from the Aleut Indian word "alaxsxaq" or "agunalaksh" that mean the mainland or shore.
State Nickname - The Last Frontier
State Motto - "North To The Future"
State Song - Alaska's Flag

  • Alaska (AK)

Alaska is a state in the United States, situated in the northwest extremity of the North American continent, with the international boundary with Canada to the east, the Arctic Ocean to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the west and south, with Russia further west across the Bering Strait. Alaska is the largest state in the United States by area, the 4th least populous and the least densely populated of the 50 United States. Approximately half of Alaska's 722,718 residents live within the Anchorage metropolitan area.

Alaska was purchased from Russia on March 30, 1867, for $7.2 million ($120 million adjusted for inflation) at approximately two cents per acre ($4.74/km²). The land went through several administrative changes before becoming an organized (or incorporated) territory on May 11, 1912, and the 49th state of the U.S. on January 3, 1959.

The name "Alaska" (Аляска) was already introduced in the Russian colonial period, when it was used only for the peninsula and is derived from the Aleut alaxsxaq, meaning "the mainland" or, more literally, "the object towards which the action of the sea is directed”. It is also known as Alyeska, the "great land", an Aleut word derived from the same root.

  • History

Alaska natives

Numerous indigenous people occupied Alaska for thousands of years before the arrival of European peoples to the area. The Tlingit people developed a matriarchal society in what is today Southeast Alaska, along with parts of British Columbia and the Yukon. Also in Southeast were the Haida, now well known for their unique arts, and the Tsimshian people, whose population were decimated by a smallpox epidemic in the 1860s.

The Aleutian Islands are still home to the Aleut people's seafaring society, although they were among the first native Alaskans to be exploited by Russians. Western and Southwestern Alaska are home to the Yup'ik, while their cousins the Alutiiq lived in what is now Southcentral Alaska. The Gwich’in people of the northern Interior region are primarily known today for their dependence on the caribou within the much-contested Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The North Slope and Little Diomede Island are occupied by the widespread Inuit people.

  • Colonization

Some researchers believe that the first Russian settlement in Alaska was established in 17th century. According to this hypothesis, in 1648 several koches of Semyon Dezhnyov's expedition were thrown to Alaska by storm and founded this settlement. This hypothesis is based on the message of Chukchi geographer Nikolai Daurkin who had visited Alaska in 1764–1765 and reported about a village on the Kheuveren river, populated by "bearded men" who "pray to the icons". Some modern researchers associate Kheuveren with Koyuk River.

The Russian settlement of St. Paul's Harbor, Kodiak Island, 1814.

It is usually assumed that the first European boat to reach Alaska was the St. Gabriel under the authority of the surveyor M. S. Gvozdev and assistant navigator I. Fyodorov on August 21, 1732 during expedition of Siberian cossak A. F. Shestakov adb Belorussian explorer D. I. Pavlutsky (1729–1735).

Another European contact with Alaska occurred in 1741, when Vitus Bering led an expedition for the Russian Navy aboard the St. Peter. After his crew returned to Russia with sea otter pelts judged to be the finest fur in the world, small associations of fur traders began to sail from the shores of Siberia towards the Aleutian islands. The first permanent European settlement was founded in 1784.

Between 1774 and 1800 Spain sent several expeditions to Alaska in order to assert its claim over the Pacific Northwest. In 1789 a Spanish settlement and fort were built in Nootka Sound. These expeditions gave names to places such as Valdez, Bucareli Sound, and Cordova. Later, the Russian-American Company carried out an expanded colonization program during the early-to-mid-19th century.

Sitka, renamed New Archangel from 1804 to 1867, on Baranof Island in the Alexander Archipelago in what is now Southeast Alaska, became the capital of Russian America and remained the capital after the colony was transferred to the United States. The Russians never fully colonized Alaska, and the colony was never very profitable.

William H. Seward, the United States Secretary of State, negotiated the Alaska Purchase (also known as Seward's Folly) with the Russians in 1867 for $7.2 million. Alaska was loosely governed by the military initially, and was administered as a district starting in 1884, with a governor appointed by the president of the United States, as well as a district court headquartered in Sitka.

Miners and prospectors climb the Chilkoot Trail during the Klondike Gold Rush.

For most of Alaska's first decade under the American flag, Sitka was the only community inhabited by American settlers. They organized a "provisional city government," which was Alaska's first city government, but not in a legal sense. Legislation allowing Alaskan communities to legally incorporate as cities did not come about until 1900, and home rule for cities was extremely limited or unavailable until statehood took effect.

  • U.S. Territory

Starting in the 1890s and stretching in some places to the early 1910s, gold rushes in Alaska and the nearby Yukon Territory brought thousands of miners and settlers to Alaska. Alaska was officially incorporated as an organized territory in 1912. Alaska's capital, which had been in Sitka until 1906, was moved north to Juneau, and began to take shape with the construction of the Alaska Governor's Mansion that same year.

U.S. troops negotiate snow and ice during the Battle of Attu in May 1943.

During World War II, the Aleutian Islands Campaign focused on the three outer Aleutian Islands – Attu, Agattu and Kiska – that were invaded by Japanese troops and occupied between June 1942 and August 1943. Unalaska/Dutch Harbor became a significant base for the U.S. Army Air Corps and Navy submariners.

The U.S. Lend-Lease program involved the flying of American warplanes through Canada to Fairbanks and thence Nome; Soviet pilots took possession of these aircraft, ferrying them to fight the German invasion of the Soviet Union. The construction of military bases contributed to the population growth of some Alaskan cities.

  • Statehood

Statehood for Alaska was an important cause of James Wickersham early in his tenure as a congressional delegate. Decades later, the statehood movement gained its first real momentum following a territorial referendum in 1946. The Alaska Statehood Committee and Alaska's Constitutional Convention would soon follow. Statehood supporters also found themselves fighting major battles against political foes, mostly in the U.S. Congress but also within Alaska. Statehood was approved by Congress on July 7, 1958. Alaska was officially proclaimed a state on January 3, 1959.

On April 27, 1964, the massive "Good Friday Earthquake" killed 133 people and destroyed several villages and portions of large coastal communities, mainly by the resultant tsunamis and landslides. It was the third most powerful earthquake in the recorded history of the world, with a moment magnitude of 9.2. It was over one thousand times more powerful than the 1989 San Francisco earthquake. The time of day (5:36 pm), time of year and location of the epicenter were all cited as factors in potentially sparing thousands of lives, particularly in Anchorage.

The 1968 discovery of oil at Prudhoe Bay and the 1977 completion of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline led to an oil boom. Royalty revenues from oil have funded large state budgets from 1980 onward. That same year, not coincidentally, Alaska repealed its state income tax. In 1989, the Exxon Valdez hit a reef in the Prince William Sound, spilling over 11,000,000 US gallons (42,000 m3) of crude oil over 1,100 miles (1,600 km) of coastline. Today, the battle between philosophies of development and conservation is seen in the contentious debate over oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

  • Facts About Alaska

Mountains

Of the 20 highest peaks in the United States, 17 are in Alaska. Mt. McKinley, the highest peak in North America, is 20,320 ft. above sea level. Denali, the Indian name for the peak, means "The Great One."

Water Bodies

The Yukon River, almost 2,000 miles long, is the third longest river in the U.S. There are more than 3,000 rivers in Alaska and over 3 million lakes. The largest, Lake Iliamna, encompasses over 1,000 square miles.

Glaciers

Alaska has an estimated 100,000 glaciers, ranging from tiny cirque glaciers to huge valley glaciers. There are more active glaciers and ice fields in Alaska than in the rest of the inhabited world. The largest glacier is the Malaspina at 850 square miles. Five percent of the state, or 29,000 square miles, is covered by glaciers.

Compass Points

Alaska boasts the northernmost (Point Barrow), the easternmost (Pochnoi Point on Semisopochnoi Island in the Aleutians), and the westernmost (Amatignak Island in the Aleutians) points in the United States."

Coastline

Alaska has 6,640 miles of coastline and, including islands, has 33,904 miles of shoreline.

Volcanoes

There are more than 70 potentially active volcanoes in Alaska. Several have erupted in recent times. The most violent volcanic eruption of the century took place in 1912 when Novarupta Volcano erupted, creating the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes which is now part of Katmai National Park.

Earthquakes

On March 27, 1964, North America’s strongest recorded earthquake, with a moment magnitude of 9.2, rocked central Alaska. Each year Alaska has approximately 5,000 earthquakes, including 1,000 that measure above 3.5 on the Richter scale. Of the ten strongest earthquakes ever recorded in the world, three have occurred in Alaska.

  • Common Misconceptions About Alaska

Most visitors have pleasant surprises in store when they come to Alaska. Three common misconceptions concerning Alaska are weather, road conditions, and prices.

Bad Weather

Over a third of all vacation/pleasure visitors found the weather better than expected. During the summer, average daytime temperatures throughout the state range from the 60s to the 90s.

Bad Road Conditions

Almost the entire length of the Alaska Highway is asphalt-surfaced, and approximately half of the roads in the state’s highway system are paved.

High Prices

Contrary to popular belief, prices throughout Alaska are generally quite reasonable.

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