Alaska is the largest state in the United States by area. It is situated in the northwest extremity of the North American continent. Alaska is 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.
Diverse and abundant wildlife are central to Alaska’s economy and people. Over 1,000 vertebrate species are found in the state, sometimes in huge numbers. More than 900,000 caribou roam in 32 herds across vast tundra landscapes. On the Copper River Delta alone, five to eight million shorebirds stop to forage and rest each spring on their way to arctic breeding grounds. Alaska has 32 species of carnivores, more than any other state.
Most of Alaska’s fish and wildlife populations are considered healthy. In the rest of the nation, more than 400 species are listed as threatened or endangered. In Alaska, only 20 species are listed this way.
Anchorage is probably the only city in the United States that has a moose problem; there are hundreds within the city limits. There has even been talk of declaring a bowhunting season for them in the city's Hillside suburb. Grizzly and black bears have been shot within the city in recent years, too...Black bears are around too. Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologists estimated in the spring of 2007 that about 100,000 of them make Alaska their home. Visitors are most likely to see them at a town dump or, in a fish camp or town in Bush Alaska, raiding a fish drying rack.
The fishing industry ran second with 71 fatalities per 100,000 workers, with drowning the most common cause of death.
The crab fishery in Alaska is particularly perilous, according to University of Alaska economist Gunnar Knapp. "The environment in which the crabbing is done, in the Bering Sea, in winter, has to be some of the worst conditions on Earth. You're hundreds of miles from port, in stormy seas, with ice forming all over, sometimes so thick it capsizes the boat."
Fishermen also sustain injuries from working with heavy gear and mighty machinery. Alaskan crabbers use huge cages as traps. "Imagine," say Knapp, "steel lobster pots, only ten times the size, hundreds of pounds apiece."
No wonder the Alaskan shellfish industry averaged 400 fatalities per 100,000 workers during the 1990s.
The 800-mile-long Trans Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) is one of the world's largest pipeline systems. Starting in Prudhoe Bay on Alaska’s North Slope, TAPS stretches through rugged and beautiful terrain to Valdez, the northernmost ice-free port in North America. Since pipeline startup in 1977, Alyeska - TAPS' operator - has successfully transported more than 16 billion barrels of oil.
From Anchorage, in south central Alaska, to Nome on the western Bering Sea coast, each team of 12 to 16 dogs and their musher cover over *1,049 miles in 10 to 17 days.
It has been called the “Last Great Race on Earth®” and it has won worldwide acclaim and interest. German, Spanish, British, Japanese and American film crews have covered the event. Journalists from outdoor magazines, adventure magazines, newspapers and wire services flock to Anchorage and Nome to record the excitement. It’s not just a dog sled race, it’s a race in which unique men and woman compete.
Sarah Palin emerged on the political scene in Alaska in 2006, a self-described "hockey mom'' and small-town mayor who ousted the incumbent governor to become the youngest person and first woman to hold the post in a state whose government had been dominated by many of the same faces since its inception...In July 2009, Ms. Palin resigned as governor, saying that what she called frivolous ethics complaints had become a distraction. Sean Parnell was sworn in as Alaska's governor.
In presidential elections, the big state of Alaska is a small state. It has only three electoral votes. In a country of 311 million people, it has a mere 722,000. Worse, it can be hard for presidential candidates to get to Alaska, given its distance from the 48 contiguous states. Alaska needs every advantage it can get during presidential elections, which makes it all the more puzzling that at least some Alaskan legislators are seriously considering National Popular Vote (anti–Electoral College) legislation.
Alaska's geography can be categorized into four main areas including two mountain ranges, a central plateau, and the Arctic slope or coastal plain.
Pacific Mountain System: In the south and southeast, the Pacific Mountain system is a major feature and is divided into many subdivisions...Central Uplands and Lowlands: This area is sandwiched between the Alaska Range of the Pacific Mountain System in the south and the Brooks Range of the Rocky Mountain System of Alaska in the north...Rocky Mountain System of Alaska: North of the Central Uplands and Lowlands area is the Rocky Mountain System of Alaska...Arctic Coastal Plain: The northernmost geographic area of Alaska is called the Arctic Coastal Plain.
Alaska is as big as England, France, Italy and Spain combined...More than half the world's active glaciers are in Alaska. About 5 percent of Alaska is covered by glaciers. There are more than 3,000 rivers and 3 million lakes in Alaska.
The United States bought Alaska from Russia in 1867...American political leaders had expressed interest in acquiring Alaska as early as the 1840s, during the height of the nation's fascination with its "Manifest Destiny" to expand its control across the continent. American traders and whalers were frequent visitors to Alaska's shores, and many spoke highly of its resources. Exploratory steps were taken in 1860 to determine whether Russia would sell Alaska to America. But the question had to await the conclusion of the Civil War. In 1866, a year after the war's end, the Czar's advisors indicated that the Russian-American Company, the semi-official arm of the Russian government that managed the Russian colony in Alaska, was nearing bankruptcy.
Alaska was unexplored in 1867 when Secretary of State William Seward arranged for its purchase from the Russians for $7,200,000 (about two cents per acre). The purchase was widely ridiculed as “Seward's Folly.”
Although Alaska's statehood is relatively brief, the state's history is long and colorful.
Dinosaurs once roamed the Great Land, followed by bison and woolly mammoths. The first people moved across the Bering Land Bridge into northwestern Alaska more than 20,000 years ago (and moved southward), archaeologists think, and Europeans arrived about 260 years ago.
A series of fur, timber, gold, fishing and oil booms and busts have marked Alaska's history and culture. Each boom brought in a different set of people.
Alaska Natives, who make up 15 percent of the state's population, maintain many traditions, such as whaling, subsistence hunting and fishing, and old ways of making crafts and art.