State Of Alaska

Geography


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The State of Alaska is one of the only two states that are not bordered by another US state, Hawaii being the other. It is the only state that both is in North America and is not part of the 48 contiguous states; about 500 miles (800 km) of Canadian territory separate Alaska from Washington. Alaska is part of the continental U.S. but is not part of the contiguous U.S. It is also the only mainland state whose capital city is accessible only via ship or air. There are no roads connecting Juneau to the rest of the state.

It is bordered by Yukon Territory and British Columbia, 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 Beaufort Sea and the Arctic Ocean to the north. Alaska is the largest state by area in the United States. It is larger in area than all but 18 of the world's nations.

Alaska is the largest state in the United States in terms of land area, 570,374 square miles (1,477,261 km). In fact, it covers more than twice as much land than the next largest state, Texas. If a map of Alaska were superimposed upon a map of the Continental United States, Alaska would overlap Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico and Colorado. Alaska has the longest coastline of any state.

Regions of Alaska

* South Central Alaska is the southern coastal region and is the population center for the state. The Municipality of Anchorage and many small but growing towns, such as Palmer, and Wasilla, lie within this area. Petroleum industrial plants, transportation, tourism, and two military bases form the core of the economy here.
* The Alaska Panhandle, also known as Southeast Alaska, is home to Juneau-the state capital, many small towns, tidewater glaciers and extensive forests. Tourism, fishing, forestry and state government anchor the economy.
* The Alaska Interior is home to Fairbanks. The geography is marked by large braided rivers, such as the Yukon River and the Kuskokwim River, as well as Arctic tundra lands and shorelines.
* The Alaskan Bush is the remote, less crowded part of the state, encompassing 380 native villages and small towns such as Nome, Bethel, Kotzebue and, most famously, Barrow, the northernmost town in the United States.

The northeast corner of Alaska is covered by the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which covers 19,049,236 acres (79,318 km). This is an area of Alaska known as ANWR and the subject of much debate over the prospect of oil drilling.

With its numerous islands, the State of Alaska has nearly 34,000 miles (54,700 km) of tidal shoreline. The island chain extending west from the southern tip of the Alaska Peninsula is called the Aleutian Islands. Many active volcanoes are found in the Aleutians. For example, Unimak Island is home to Mount Shishaldin, a moderately active volcano that rises to 9,980 ft (3,042 m) above sea level. The chain of volcanoes extends to Mount Spurr, west of Anchorage on the mainland.

North America's second largest tides occur in Turnagain Arm just south of Anchorage, which often sees tidal differences of more than 35 feet (10.7 m). This is where the Boar Tide or great wave can be seen racing across the inlet several times each year.

Alaska is home to 3.5 million lakes of 20 acres or larger. Marshlands and wetland permafrost cover 188,320 square miles (487,747 km, mostly in northern, western and southwest flatlands. Frozen water, in the form of glacier ice, covers some 16,000 square miles (41,440 km) of land and 1,200 square miles (3,108 km) of tidal zone. The Bering Glacier complex near the southeastern border with Yukon, Canada, covers 2,250 square miles (5,827 km) alone.

The Aleutian Islands actually cross longitude 180°, technically making Alaska the easternmost state as well as the westernmost - but nobody thinks of it that way because meridians of longitude are artificial lines drawn upon maps, whereas the peninsula that is Alaska and the Aleutian Islands that extend westward from it are physically and undeniably the westernmost points of North America. Alaska and, especially, the Aleutians are one of the extreme points of the United States. The International Date Line jogs west of 180° to keep the whole state, and thus the entire continental United States, within the same legal day.

According to the October 1998 report of the United States Bureau of Land Management, approximately 65% of Alaska is owned and managed by the U.S. Federal Government as national forests, national parks, and national wildlife refuges. Of these, the Bureau of Land Management manages 87 million acres (350,000 km), or 23.8% of the state. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is managed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

Of the remaining land area, the State of Alaska owns 24.5%; another 10% is managed by thirteen regional and dozens of local Native corporations created under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. Various private interests own the remaining land, totaling less than 1%.

Alaska is administratively divided into "boroughs," as opposed to "counties." The function is the same, but whereas most states use a three-tiered system of decentralisation - state/county/township - Alaska only uses two tiers - state/borough. Owing to the state's low population density, most of the land is located in the Unorganized Borough which, as the name implies, has no intermediate borough government of its own, but is administered directly by the state government.

Alaska was first inhabited by humans who came across the Bering Land Bridge. Eventually, Alaska became populated by the Inupiaq, Inuit and Yupik Eskimos, Aleuts, and a variety of American Indian groups. Most, if not all, of the pre-Columbian population of the Americas probably took this route and continued further south and east.

State & Territorial History

The first written accounts indicate that the first Europeans to reach Alaska came from Russia. Vitus Bering sailed east and saw Mt. St. Elias. The Russian-American Company hunted sea otters for their fur. The colony was never very profitable, because of the costs of transportation.

The news of the British North America Act, 1867, was nervously received in Washington, DC. It would create, on July 1, 1867, "one dominion under the name of Canada," and this led to expressions of "grave misgivings on the establishment of a monarchial state to the north" in what Canadians then called "the republic to the south." (See McNaughton's excellent Short History of Canada.) U.S. Secretary of State William Seward thus urged, and the United States Senate thus approved, the treaty authorizing the purchase of Alaska from Russia for US $7,200,000 on 9 April 1867. The United States took possession and the American flag was raised over Alaska on 18 October, which is commemorated as Alaska Day.

Russia still used the Julian Calendar in 1867, and the world had not yet been divided into standard time zones - thus, there was no international date line, and the day began in the morning instead of starting at midnight. So, whereas the American day now ends with sunset in western Alaska, the Russian day - in those days - started with sunrise in 'eastern' Alaska. Thus, Friday, October 6, 1867, the day before the physical transfer of ownership, was followed by Friday, October 18, 1867 - which was Saturday, October 7, 1867 in Russia. The change in date was due to America bringing the Gregorian Calendar to Alaska, which the lack of change in day resulted from Alaska's shift from being the starting point of the Russian day to being the ending point of the American day.

The purchase of Alaska from Russia was not popular in the United States, where it became known as "Seward's Folly" or "Seward's Icebox." Alaska celebrates the purchase each year on the last Monday of March, calling it Seward's Day.

Upon purchase, the area was called Department of Alaska. Between 1884 and 1912 it was called the District of Alaska. Alaska was granted territorial status in 1912.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Alaska Statehood Act on 7 July 1958, and Alaska formally became a state on January 3, 1959.

Alaska suffered one of the worst earthquakes in recorded history on Good Friday 1964--9.2 on the Richter scale. This was a devasting force of nature that changed the face of South Central Alaska. At 5:36 PM Alaska Standard Time (3:36 AM March 28, 1964 UTC), a fault between the Pacific and North American plates ruptured near College Fjord in Prince William Sound. The earthquake lasted for three to five minutes in most areas. Ocean floor shifts created large tsunamis (up to 67 meters in height), resulting in many of the deaths and much property damage. Vertical displacement of up to 11.5 m (38 feet) occurred, affecting an area of 250,000 km (100,000 miles) within Alaska.

Permanent Fund Dividend

In 1976, the people of Alaska amended the state's constitution, establishing the Alaska Permanent Fund. The fund invests a portion of the state's mineral revenue, including revenue from the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline System, "to benefit all generations of Alaskans." As of November 28, 2007, the fund's value was over $39 billion. In 2007, each Alaskan resident was eligible to receive a dividend of $1,654.00 just by demonstrating they had lived in the state for at least six months in 2007.

Time Zones

Prior to 1983, the state lay across four different time zones-Pacific Standard Time (UTC -8 hours) in the southeast panhandle, a small area of Yukon Standard Time (UTC -9 hours) around Yakutat, Alaska Hawaii Standard Time (UTC -10 hours) in the Anchorage and Fairbanks vicinity, with the Nome area and most of the Aleutian Islands observing Bering Standard Time (UTC -11 hours). In 1983 the number of time zones was reduced to two, with the entire mainland plus the inner Aleutian Islands going to UTC -9 hours (and this zone then being renamed Alaska Standard Time as the Yukon Territory had several years earlier (circa 1975) adopted a single time zone identical to Pacific Standard Time), and the remaining Aleutian Islands were slotted into the UTC -10 hours zone.

Population

Alaska is the least densely populated state. The population of the state is estimated at 670,000, according to 2006 figures. Alaska is the fourth-smallest U.S. state, population-wise, following North Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming.

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