Alaska - The Last Frontier

Travel news > Alaska the Last Frontier >

Published on 2012-04-16 (16 April 2012)

  • The name Alaska comes from the Aleut word 'Alyeska' meaning 'great land' and the 49th state certainly lives up to it's name. It's twice as large as Texas, has a glacier bigger than the whole of Switzerland, the tallest mountain in North America, Mt McKinley, and 17 of the 20 highest peaks in the USA...

    Kennicott Mine in Wrangell St Elias Alaska's history became the stuff of legends when it was bought by the Americans for less than 2 cents an acre ($7.2m) from the Russians in 1867. Little did the Russians know that a century later Alaska would be producing that much money in oil revenue every day.

    The original Alaskans were the native peoples of North America - the Athabascans, the Aleuts, Inuit and down on the coast the Tlingits and Haidas. Spanish, British and French explorers reached the coast, but it was the Russians who stayed to colonise during the 18th C. after finding a saleable commodity - fur. By the 1860's the Russians were short of cash because of the Napoleonic wars and signed a treaty with Secretary of State William H. Seward to buy Alaska. The purchase was defined as a folly by most Americans but Alaska's natural riches began to gradually repay the investment. First it was whales, then salmon and then gold!

    Alaska Kenai Fjords Glacier On January 3rd 1959, Alaska was finally admitted to the union as the 49th State. Disaster befell the new state on Good Friday 1964, with the Good Friday Earthquake. Registering 9.2 on the Richter scale, its effects were devastating. Recovery was boosted in 1968 with the discovery of massive oil deposits off Prudhoe Bay in the Arctic Ocean. The 1971 Alaska Native Claims settlement paved the way for the construction of the 789 mile TransAlaska pipeline, from the north coast to Valdez in the south. The mineral rights from the oil find have been set aside as the Alaska Permanent Fund. The dividend from this pays out to every man, woman and child in the state every October.

    About as large as England, France, Spain and Italy put together, Alaska is a land of almost unimaginable scale. It's majestic landscape borders two oceans and three seas, with a 43,700 mile coastline. Alaska boasts over three million lakes, 3,000 rivers, 1,800 islands and more than 1,000 glaciers. With a land area of over 600,000 square miles and a population of just 500,000, there is more than a square mile for every inhabitant - if this was repeated in Manhattan, only 16 people would live there!

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