Alaska is reaching so far west that international date lines had to be adjusted to keep the entire state within the same day. It is so vast that Rhode Island would fit 425 times in Alaska. Although Alaska is often thought of as an ‘ice-covered and frozen land’, fruits and vegetables can grow here much bigger than their usual sizes.
The state of Alaska is so immensely big and there are so few roads that airplanes have become the state’s ‘family cars’. Alaska, famous for its wild and pure grandeur, has vast oil resources and is often referred to as ‘America’s Last Frontier’.
Quick Facts about Alaska
– Alaska is by far the largest of all states.
– Alaska is the only U.S. state that extends into the Eastern Hemisphere.
– Alaska’s Mt. McKinley is North America’s highest mountain.
– Alaska has America’s largest forest acreage.
Alaska Brief history
In 1741, Vitus (or Ivan Ivanovich) Bering, a Danish explorer hired by the Russian Navy, was actually the first European to reach the area that we now know as Alaska. He was sent to explore the region by the Russian Czar, and the Russian troops treated Native peoples such as the Indian, Aleut, and Eskimo, brutally and decimated the original population.
The Russians set up a trading post as well as their headquarters in 1784 at Kodiak, the first European settlement in what we know as Alaska. Alexander Andreyevich Baranov established Sitka in 1804, named for the tribe with that name, and it wasn’t long before this settlement became Alaska’s civilized capital.
The Russian Czar was aware that his grip on the area was weakening, so he sold the territory to the U.S., and though most Americans were thinking of Alaska as a frigid, barren waste, the U.S. decided to buy every bit of the Russian territory for $7.2 million, on March 30th, 1867. In that year, on October 18th, the U.S. flag was flying over Sitka, and the Americans that were present were cheering as one of the best real estate deals in American History was closed.
A massive gold lode was discovered in the year 1880 near Gold Creek’s headwaters, and it didn’t take long before prospectors and settlers were flocking the area. The community that developed here was named after one of the most prominent prospectors, Joe Juneau. Thousands of prospectors and settlers were crossing Alaska over treacherous grounds in 1896. During the Klondike Gold Rush (1896-99), some 100,000 prospectors traveled to the Klondike region of the Yukon (northwestern Canada). In 1899, gold was discovered in Nome, and most explorers who had come to the Klondike in vain, left the area.
In 1923, on July 15th, President Warren Hardin accompanied a delegation to the ceremony for the completion of the Alaska railroad between Sewerd and Fairbanks at the Tanana River bridge. The ‘Harding Railroad Car’ is a historically important Pullman railroad passenger car used by the president for that occasion which still can be marveled at Pioneer Park (or Alaskaland) in Fairbanks.
Japanese invaders captured some of the American Aleutian Islands (Attu, Agatru, and Kiska) in 1942, but it wasn’t long before American recaptured the islands again. In 1959, on January 3rd, Alaska became the 49th state of the U.S.. This was actually the first time since 1912 that a new state was admitted to the Union.
In 1964, on March 27th, the Anchorage area was devastated by one of the most powerful and disastrous earthquakes that ever hit North America. 1977 was the year of the completion of the highly controversial Trans-Alaska pipeline that enabled the transportation of oil from the Prudhoe Bay oil field on Alaska’s Arctic coast. The Exon Valdez disaster of 1989 was among America’s worst ecological disasters ever.
The stranded oil tanker caused an enormous oil spill that killed an unknown numbers of shore and marine birds and other animals, and seriously affected a vast area’s economy. Damages and clean-up costs were staggering, and in 1994, the Exxon oil company paid $5 billion to make up for damages,
The mid 1990’s brought sharp declining oil prices, and lack of oil revenue started to threaten the subsidized lifestyle of many Alaskans. In 1994, President Bill Clinton ordered that Alaska’s aboriginal tribes must receive the same respect as other state government bodies, and in that same year, Mount Cleveland erupted.
One of the best-known phenomenons of Alaska is the ‘self-emptying Lake George’. Each winter, this one-of-a-kind curiosity offers a fantastic spectacle as a dam of ice that’s formed each winter is bursting due to the pressure caused by the water of the lake that’s formed because of it. The lake is emptying itself, and the entire process starts all over again.