On March 30, 1867, financial struggles force Russia to sell Russian-America to the United States. Negotiated by U.S. Secretary of State William Seward, the treaty buys what is now Alaska for $7.2 million, or about 2 cents an acre. The Russians believed that since they had brought the otter population to extinction, that Alaska and was not worth keeping. Thus the sale of land was made to the United States.
Alaska covers 570,374 square miles and has a population of approximately 621,000 people. If Alaska were to be split in half, both halves would still be larger than the State of Texas. On our trip we visited the state capital at Juneau.
To visit Juneau you have to fly in or come in on a ship. Juneau became Alaska's second capital in 1906 and is the only capital inaccessible by road in the country. Alaska's first capital was the Tlingit settlement of Sitka, the Russian Trading Post set up by Alexander Baranov in 1799.
The highest peak in North America can be found on the 6 million acre Denali National Park. It's peak hides in the clouds most of the year at 20,320 feet above sea level. Mt. McKinley is known as Mt. Denali or "The Mountain" by locals and is one of 23 peaks taller than 10,000 feet in the Alaskan Mountain Range.
Glaciers and ice fields cover 5,367 square miles of terrain in Alaska. During our trip we took a helicopter over several of the most famous glaciers including the Mendenhall. We had the unique opportunity to land on the Hubbard Glacier and stood on the 800 foot thick blue ice field of the Hubbard Glacier. The compressed ice is so dense that it acts like a prism and reflects the blue light waves rather than the color "white" which is usually associated with ice. Several days later we went to the head of the Yakutat Bay to see the Hubbard break off or "calf" into the bay with a thunderous crack. The Hubbard Glacier is the longest and fastest growing glacier in North America. During the Summer of 2002 it grew as fast as 180 feet per day. The compressed glacial ice took hundreds of years to form only to break off into the bay. What a site. On land we got to visit the famous Portage Glacier with all of it's little icebergs in the lake below the glacier.
The most surprising thing about the second-largest city in Alaska, Fairbanks, was how warm it got. During our stay in early September it got as high as 88 Degrees F. In the Summer, the Dry Alpine Desert heat soars to as high as 99 Degrees F. In the Winter the snow doesn't melt in the 40 to 66 Degree below zero temperature but it never accumulates to over a couple of feet in depth because it continually evaporates directly into the dry atmosphere. For those of us in the lower 48, just imagine snow with no ice because water doesn't go into the liquid form up there.
Alaska also hosts the nation's largest national forest - the 17 million acre Tongass National Forest which is close to Alaska's forth ranked city of Ketchikan. I was not surprised the Ketchikan is in the middle of a rain forest as we visited the area one rainy day. Every year the area receives approximately 13.5 feet of rain.
In 1927, Benny Benson, an Native American Orphan attending the 7th grade in Seward designed the Alaskan State flag. His design was selected over 142 others submitted to the committee that was charge with the task of creating the new flag for the U.S. Territory of Alaska. Almost a quarter of a century later, his dream for Alaska was realized as it was designated the 49th State of the United States of America in 1959. After that the US Flag had seven rows of seven stars until the 50th state was added to the union.
“The blue field is for the Alaska sky and the forget-me-not, an Alaskan
flower. The North Star is for the future state of Alaska, the most northerly in
the union. The Dipper is for the Great Bear — symbolizing strength.”
Benny Benson’s flag motto
Alaskan State Flower: Wild Forget-me-not
Alaskan State Bird: Willow Ptarmigan
Alaskan State Tree: Sitka Spruce
Seal of Alaska
©1994-2015 Bruce L Oliver, Enfield, CT