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Alaska (AK): State Guide and Fun Facts

Alaska, the 49th state of the Union, is located in the uppermost part of North America, next to Canada. It is the largest U.S. state by area and one of the wealthiest and racially diverse. The area that would later become Alaska was purchased from the Russian Empire on March 30, 1867. It officially became a part of the United States on January 3, 1959.

When was Alaska Founded? 1728; US purchased it in 1868
Who Founded Alaska? Vitus Bering (Russian)
First settlers: Russians
Square Miles: 656,425
US Rank: 1st
State Flower: Forgot-Me-Not
State Bird: Willow Ptarmigan
State Motto: North to the Future

Capital City: Juneau

What Is Alaska Famous For?

1. Midnight Sun Alaska, because of its partial location in the Arctic Circle. It is at this latitude, that the sun ceases to set during certain months of the year, and the area experiences 24 hours of daylight. June 21 is the approximate longest day of the year, when the sun does not dip below the horizon at any point. The winter solstice, on the other hand, occurs on December 21, and the sun does not rise at all. Some areas of Alaska experience months without sunlight/daylight.

2. King Crab – Alaska is famous for its king crab catches. The catch happens for only a short amount of time during the year, usually sometime between October and January. The industry is extremely competitive, and quotas and caps are imposed so that no fisherman catches all the crabs and leaves everyone else without. The job is statistically one of the most dangerous jobs in the United States. The mortality rate is more than 300 people per 100,000 fishermen that succumb to the powers of the ocean.

3. Largest State – Alaska is the largest state in the United States, at 663,268 square miles. It measures 2,261 miles wide and 1,420 miles long at its widest and longest parts. 13.77% of the state is made up of bodies of water (not including oceans or other saltwater bodies). It density, however, is the smallest of the 50 states in the US, at only 1.03 people per square mile.

What Is Alaska’s Economy?

1. Oil – Alaska’s main source of income comes from the North Slope oil, which is mined and then transported through the Alaskan Pipeline. The state began mining oil when Thomas White saw natural oil near the Gulf of Alaska. It was seeping up through the ground due to its abundance. He knew it could be a lucrative venture, and so, within 6 years he had gathered up enough interested parties to drill Alaska’s first oil well. 37 wells followed over the next few decades. Refineries and more drilling followed, until Alaska became the oil magnate that it is today.

2. Fishing – Alaska is the United States’ leading fishing state. The main catches include salmon, crab, shrimp, halibut, herring and cod. The state also takes care of many freezing and canning operations.

3. Government – The government is the largest employer in the state of Alaska. Many military bases are active in the location because of its proximity to eastern Asian countries.

Alaska Historical Landmarks

1. American Flag Raising Site (Castle Hill)
In 1867, when the United States purchased Alaska from Russia, it was at Castle Hill that the Russian Flag was lowered and the American Flag was raised. The site was once the location of Tlingit and Russian Forts, and it now serves as an Alaskan State Park located in Sitka, Alaska (an island in the southeastern part of the state).

2. Sheldon Jackson College
This Sitka Industrial and Training was founded in 1878 by Fannie Kellogg and John G. Brady. It was originally put in place to teach the Tlingit people, the indigenous dwellers in Alaska. The original school burned down shortly thereafter, in 1882. Sheldon Jackson raised funds in order to construct a new building, and thus the school was renamed Sheldon Jackson College. The addition of a boarding high school in 1917 was short lived and in 1966, was closed. The college remained, however, and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2001.

3. Kennecott Mines
Kennecott Mines is located in the southeastern part of Alaska and became one of the states most economically fruitful areas at the beginning of the 1900s when copper was discovered. Jack Smith and Clarence Warner discovered the metal mountain and founded the Chitina Mining and Exploration Company. Only two decades after the formation of the mine, it was declared as the highest and largest concentration of copper in the world. The copper mill is build on the side of a hill, and today, although abandoned, is an attraction for tourists, who are guided through the rambling twenty-something storey wooden copper mills.

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