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THE LAND OF MIDNIGHT SUN(sun in the night)

Alaska i/əˈlæskə/ is the largest state in the United States by area. It is situated in the northwest extremity of the North American continent, 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. Approximately half of Alaska's 710,231 residents (as per the 2010 United States Census) live within the Anchorage metropolitan area. Alaska is the least densely populated state of the U.S.[5]

Alaska was purchased from the Russian Empire on March 30, 1867, for $7.2 million ($113 million in today's dollars) at about 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".[6] It is also known as Alyeska, the "great land", an Aleut word derived from the same root.

Geography

Main article: Geography of Alaska

Alaska has a longer coastline than all the other U.S. states combined.[7] It is the only non-contiguous U.S. state on continental North America; about 500 miles (800 km) of British Columbia (Canada) separate Alaska from Washington state. Alaska is thus an exclave of the United States. It is technically part of the continental U.S., but is often not included in colloquial use; Alaska is not part of the contiguous U.S., often called "the Lower 48.[8] The capital city, Juneau, is situated on the mainland of the North American continent, but is not connected by road to the rest of the North American highway system.

The state is bordered by the Yukon Territory and British Columbia in Canada, to the east, the Gulf of Alaska and the Pacific Ocean to the south, the Bering Sea, Bering Strait, and Chukchi Sea to the west and the Arctic Ocean to the north. Alaska's territorial waters touch Russia's territorial waters in the Bering Strait, as the Russian Big Diomede Island and Alaskan Little Diomede Island are only 3 miles (4.8 km) apart. With the extension of the Aleutian Islands into the eastern hemisphere, it is technically both the westernmost and easternmost state in the United States, as well as also being the northernmost.



Alaska's size compared with the 48 contiguous states.

Alaska is the largest state in the United States in land area at 586,412 square miles (1,518,800 km2), over twice the size of Texas, the next largest state. Alaska is larger than all but 18 sovereign countries. Counting territorial waters, Alaska is larger than the combined area of the next three largest states: Texas, California, and Montana. It is also larger than the combined area of the 22 smallest U.S. states.

Regions

There are no officially defined borders demarcating the various regions of Alaska, but there are six generally accepted regions:

South Central

Main article: South Central Alaska

The most populous region of Alaska, containing Anchorage, the Matanuska-Susitna Valley and the Kenai Peninsula. Rural, mostly unpopulated areas south of the Alaska Range and west of the Wrangell Mountains also fall within the definition of Southcentral, as well as the Prince William Sound area and the communities of Cordova and Valdez.

Southeast

Main article: Southeast Alaska

Also known as the Panhandle, this is the region of Alaska closest to the rest of the United States, and hence was where most initial non-Native settlement occurred following the Alaska Purchase. It contains the state capital, Juneau, the former capital, Sitka, and the large town of Ketchikan. The road systems leading from these cities are strictly local; no roads connect these communities to each other or any other communities apart from their own suburbs. The region is dominated by the Alexander Archipelago as well as the Tongass National Forest, the largest national forest in the United States.

Interior



Mount McKinley is both the highest peak in Alaska and in all of North America.

The largest region of Alaska, much of it uninhabited wilderness. Fairbanks is the only community of any significant size. Small towns and Native villages are scattered throughout, mostly along the highway and river systems. Denali National Park and Preserve is located here, home to Mount McKinley (also widely known by its local name of Denali), the highest point in North America.

Southwest





Grizzly bear fishing for salmon at Brooks Falls.

A sparsely inhabited region stretching some 500 miles (800 km) inland from the Bering Sea. Most of the population lives along the coast. Kodiak Island is also located in Southwest. The massive Yukon–Kuskokwim Delta, one of the largest river deltas in the world, is here. Portions of the Alaska Peninsula are considered part of Southwest, with the remaining portions included with the Aleutian Islands (see below).

North Slope

The North Slope is mostly tundra peppered with small villages. The area is known for its massive reserves of crude oil, and contains both the National Petroleum Reserve–Alaska and the Prudhoe Bay Oil Field.[9]Barrow, the northernmost city in the United States, is located here. The Northwest Arctic area, anchored by Kotzebue and also containing the Kobuk River valley, is often regarded as being part of this region. However, the respective Inupiat of the North Slope and of the Northwest Arctic seldom think of themselves as one.

Aleutian Islands

More than 300 small, volcanic islands make up this chain, which stretches over 1,200 miles (1,900 km) into the Pacific Ocean. The International Date Line was drawn west of 180° to keep the whole state, and thus the entire North American continent, within the same legal day. However, because some of these islands fall in the Eastern Hemisphere, this makes Alaska the northernmost, easternmost and westernmost state in the union, with the southernmost state being Hawaii. Two of the islands, Attu and Kiska, were occupied by Japanese forces during World War II.

Natural features



Augustine Volcano erupting on January 12, 2006.

With its myriad islands, Alaska has nearly 34,000 miles (54,720 km) of tidal shoreline. The Aleutian Islands chain extends west from the southern tip of the Alaska Peninsula. Many active volcanoes are found in the Aleutians and in coastal regions. Unimak Island, for example, is home to Mount Shishaldin, which is an occasionally smoldering volcano that rises to 10,000 feet (3,048 m) above the North Pacific. It is the most perfect volcanic cone on Earth, even more symmetrical than Japan's Mount Fuji. The chain of volcanoes extends to Mount Spurr, west of Anchorage on the mainland. Geologists have identified Alaska as part of Wrangellia, a large region consisting of multiple states and Canadian provinces in the Pacific Northwest which is actively undergoing continent building.

One of the world's largest tides occurs in Turnagain Arm, just south of Anchorage – tidal differences can be more than 35 feet (10.7 m). (Many sources say Turnagain has the second-greatest tides in North America, but several areas in Canada have larger tides.)[10]

Main article: List of lakes in Alaska

Alaska has more than three million lakes.[11][12]Marshlands and wetland permafrost cover 188,320 square miles (487,747 km2) (mostly in northern, western and southwest flatlands). Glacier ice covers some 16,000 square miles (41,440 km2) of land and 1,200 square miles (3,110 km2) of tidal zone. The Bering Glacier complex near the southeastern border with Yukon covers 2,250 square miles (5,827 km2) alone. With over 100,000, Alaska has half of the world's glaciers.

Land ownership



Alaska has more public land owned by the federal government than any other state.[13]

According to an October 1998 report by the United States Bureau of Land Management, approximately 65% of Alaska is owned and managed by the U.S. federal government as public lands, including a multitude of national forests, national parks, and national wildlife refuges. Of these, the Bureau of Land Management manages 87 million acres (35 million hectares), or 23.8% of the state. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is managed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. It is the world's largest wildlife refuge, comprising 16 million acres (6.5 million hectares).

Of the remaining land area, the state of Alaska owns 101 million acres (41 million hectares); its entitlement under the Alaska Statehood Act. A portion of that acreage is occasionally ceded to organized boroughs, under the statutory provisions pertaining to newly-formed boroughs. Smaller portions are set aside for rural subdivisions and other homesteading-related opportunities, though these are infrequently popular due to the often remote and roadless locations. The University of Alaska, as a land grant university, also owns substantial acreage which it manages independently.

Another 44 million acres (18 million hectares) are owned by 12 regional, and scores of local, Native corporations created under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. Regional Native corporation Doyon, Limited often promotes itself as the largest private landowner in Alaska in advertisements and other communications. Provisions of ANCSA allowing the corporations' land holdings to be sold on the open market starting in 1991 were repealed before they could take effect. Effectively, the corporations hold title (including subsurface title in many cases, a privilege denied to individual Alaskans) but cannot sell the land. Individual Native allotments can be and are sold on the open market, however.

Various private interests own the remaining land, totaling about one percent of the state. Alaska is, by a large margin, the state with the smallest percentage of private land ownership when Native corporation holdings are excluded.

Climate

Main article: Climate of Alaska

The climate in Juneau and the southeast panhandle is a mid-latitude oceanic climate (Köppen climate classification Cfb) in the southern sections and a subarctic oceanic climate (Köppen Cfc) in the northern parts. On an annual basis, the panhandle is both the wettest and warmest part of Alaska with milder temperatures in the winter and high precipitation throughout the year. Juneau averages over 50 inches (1,270 mm) of precipitation a year, while other areas receive over 275 inches (6,990 mm).[14] This is also the only region in Alaska in which the average daytime high temperature is above freezing during the winter months.

The climate of Anchorage and south central Alaska is mild by Alaskan standards due to the region's proximity to the seacoast. While the area gets less rain than southeast Alaska, it gets more snow, and days tend to be clearer. On average, Anchorage receives 16 inches (406 mm) of precipitation a year, with around 75 inches (191 cm) of snow, although there are areas in the south central which receive far more snow. It is a subarctic climate (Köppen Dfc) due to its brief, cool summers.



Barrow, known colloquially for many years by the nickname "Top of the World," is the northernmost city in the United States.

The climate of Western Alaska is determined in large part by the Bering Sea and the Gulf of Alaska. It is a subarctic oceanic climate in the southwest and a continental subarctic climate farther north. The temperature is somewhat moderate considering how far north the area is. This region has a tremendous amount of variety in precipitation. An area stretching from the northern side of the Seward Peninsula to the Kobuk River valley is technically a desert, with portions receiving less than 10 inches (254 mm) of precipitation annually. On the other extreme, some locations between Dillingham and Bethel average around 100 inches (2,540 mm) of precipitation.[14]

The climate of the interior of Alaska is subarctic. Some of the highest and lowest temperatures in Alaska occur around the area near Fairbanks. The summers may have temperatures reaching into the 90s°F (the low to mid 30s °C), while in the winter, the temperature can fall below −60 °F (−51.1 °C). Precipitation is sparse in the Interior, often less than 10 inches (254 mm) a year, but what precipitation falls in the winter tends to stay the entire winter.

The highest and lowest recorded temperatures in Alaska are both in the Interior. The highest is 100 °F (37.8 °C) in Fort Yukon (which is just 8 miles or 13 kilometers inside the arctic circle) on June 27, 1915,[15][16] making Alaska tied with Hawaii as the state with the lowest high temperature in the United States.[17][18] The lowest official Alaska temperature is −80 °F (−62.2 °C) in Prospect Creek on January 23, 1971,[15][16] one degree above the lowest temperature recorded in continental North America (in Snag, Yukon, Canada).[19]

The climate in the extreme north of Alaska is Arctic (Köppen ET) with long, very cold winters and short, cool summers. Even in July, the average low temperature in Barrow is 34 °F (1.1 °C).[20] Precipitation is light in this part of Alaska, with many places averaging less than 10 inches (254 mm) per year, mostly as snow which stays on the ground almost the entire year.

History

Colonization



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

Some researchers believe that the first Russian settlement in Alaska was established in 17th century.[21] 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 village on the Kheuveren river, populated by "bearded men" who "pray to the icons". Some modern researchers associate Kheuveren with Koyuk River.[22]

It is usually assumed that the first European boat to reach Alaska was «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)[23]

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.

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.

Demographics

Main article: Demographics of Alaska

Historical populations

Census

Pop.

1880

33,426

1890

32,052

−4.1%

1900

63,592

98.4%

1910

64,356

1.2%

1920

55,036

−14.5%

1930

59,278

7.7%

1940

72,524

22.3%

1950

128,643

77.4%

1960

226,167

75.8%

1970

300,382

32.8%

1980

401,851

33.8%

1990

550,043

36.9%

2000

626,932

14.0%

2010

710,231

13.3%

1930 and 1940 censuses taken in preceding autumn
Sources: 1910–2010[25
]

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