Things you should know about Alaska – I’ll ask ya!
Did you know? ’cause I didn’t… till now! Interesting facts I have learned so far during my stay in Alaska…
- The name “Alaska” is derived from the Aleut word “Alyeska”, meaning “great land”. Literally, it means “object to which the action of the sea is directed”.
- Alaska’s capital is not Anchorage. It is Juneau.
- Anchorage is the largest city though.
- Juneau cannot be reached by car. There is no highway going there. You can only fly in.
- Americans like to refer to Alaska as “The Last Frontier”.
- Alaskans like to refer to the other states as “The lower 48”, the continental states.
- Alaska’s Motto is “North to the Future”. I like it!
The Big Dipper and the Polar Star are the motive of the Alaskan flag. I love it!
- Alaska is the largest and most northwest state of the United States of America. The coordinates are latitude: 51°20’N to 71°50’N and longitude 130°W to 172°E. Alaska is twice the size of Texas and 1/5 the size of the rest of the USA. 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 being the northernmost.
- At the same time, Alaska is one of the least populous states. Of the approximately 710,000 Alaska inhabitants, half live in Anchorage and the surrounding areas. With an average of 0,4 persons per square kilometer, Alaskans have a lot of space to explore!
- The highest point in Alaska is Mount McKinley or better known as Denali. It is 6.194m high.
- Originally, Alaska (Аляска) was part of the Russian Empire until March 30, 1867,
when the United States bought the territory for 2 million U.S. dollars (approx. $4,74/km²). I would say the Russian Empire gave one of its most beautiful parts away for nothing… Well, at least they kept Kamchatka. 😉
Typical Alaskan animals: Moose, grizzly bears, black bears, bald eagles, wolves, halibut, salmon, puffin, seals, beluga and humpback whales.
- Alaska has the longest salmon run in the world… 3,220 km up the Yukon River.
- Furthermore, Alaska has the largest concentration of bald eagles in
the world. More than 3,500 bald eagles come to the Chilkat River, north the Haines, in the fall and winter to feed on the late salmon runs.
- One indispensable ingredient for Alaska’s incredibly beautiful nature are its flowers and plants. The summer months as well as the short time of autumn are high season for discovering an endless range of flora and fauna. Tourists as well as locals love going onhikes and picking edible plants. Unfortunately, Alaska is also home for many poisonous plants. Most of them are purple and too pretty for anyone to suspect them to be dangerous. It would be very easy to poison bad behaving people with the actual small knowledge you need for the use of poisonous plants…. Anyhow, there are some berries like Devil’s Club, Snake Berry, Queen’s Cup and Snowberry that are not edible at all! Some harmless and delic
ious berries are Blueberries, Raspberries, Cloudberries, Lingonberries, Salmonberries, Watermelon Berries and Crowberries. If you feel a little hungry during a hike, you will find for sure some delicious treats on our way!
Another pretty, but very dangerous flower is Monkshood, also known as Devil’s Helmet, Queen of all Poisons or Blue Rocket. The various names show how dangerous this beautiful plant can be. Even touching it might be enough for a reaction. I would recommend to watch out and not to pick every pretty flower you see. If you are planning to eat some of the flowers and berries and whatever you find during your hike, you should at least carry a plant book with you and check everything out before you touch or even eat anything.
- The national plant of Alaska is the “forget-me-not”. I assume the flower is a national symbol because no matter if you live or just visit Alaska; you will fall in love with this beautiful area and never ever forget it!
- Another noticeable plant is fireweed. During the summer months, almost all fields are
covered in a purple-pink layer of this beautiful flower. There is even an Alaskan saying about the plant: If the fireweed is blooming on its very top, the summer will be over in six weeks. Another use for the plant is making wine or jelly out of it. Mmmh, yummy!
- Due to the size and the geographic location of Alaska, the state has several climate zones. In the southeast is an oceanic, in the center a rather mild and in the north an arctic climate. In the whole state, summer is short and winter long. The highest recorded temperature in Alaska is 38°C in 1915 and the lowest -62°C in 1971. A temperature range of 100°C!
- The axis of the earth has an incredible impact on the natural wonders in Alaska. There are the White Nights during summer when it is not getting dark anymore and the night turns into day. Furthermore, there is the beauty of Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) during winter when green and purple lights are dancing the star-spattered sky.
Furthermore, the earth’s axis is the reason for very strong tides in Alaska. The water of the Bering Sea can go back for several meters during low tide. The inlet of Turnagain Arm close to Anchorage is nearly void of water at low tide. One of the world’s largest tides occurs there – tidal differences can be more than 10.7 m. The resulting mudscape looks serene and solid, but the following mudflats are like quicksand and therewith very dangerous. Every year a couple of people drown because they are stuck in the mud when the water is coming back. You should better look out when you are walking at the beach!
- Alaska is located in the middle of the rough Bering Sea, the Pacific Ocean and the Arctic Ocean. The Russian Big Diomede Island and the Alaskan Little Diomede Island are only 8 km apart from each other. Russia and the States are so close to each other and yet so far… sort of in the past future. The international dateline runs between Russia and Alaska and puts the countries a day apart from each other. When the day ends in Russia, the day just starts in Alaska. If an Alaskan wants a day to be over as soon as possible, he should cross the border and skip the day. The same for a Russian who wants a day never to end. Just go back in time and live the day all over again!
- The location of Alaska is unique and certainly worth to mention. Being part of the Pacific Ring of Fire is equal with the occurrence of a large number of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. The volcanoes look like graceful peaks in the landscape of the Alaskan wilderness and yet most of them are still active and erupt in a certain amount of time. Alaska is a very active area because of the movement and collision of earth plates. In 1964, the Good Friday earthquake was the most powerful, recorded earthquake in the history of the United States. It caused about 139 deaths and occurred such a huge damage of Alaska’s nature that you can still see it very clear today. For example, forest areas were flooded with saltwater, which has damaged the flora and fauna ever since.
- Despite the steady occurrence of earthquakes and the frequent eruptions of volcanoes, the daily view of the volcanoes, especially in the southwestern area of Homer is just incomparable! There are the volcanoes Redoubt, Augustine, Iliamna and Douglas. All of them are still active and all of them are visible from Homer. Actually, they make Homer to such a special and beautiful place.
- The British explorer James Cook (1728-1779) was looking for the Northwest Passage during his journeys to the north. The famous “Cook Inlet” or “Turnagain Arm” clarifies his eager attempt. He could not find the passage and was forced to turn south again. They even named the volcano “Redoubt” after him: Cook doubted and redoubted whether there is a passage directly heading to the northwest or not. Actually, he came very close to the western entrance to the passage. Only 80 km separated him from one more discovery. Nevertheless, he had rounded the Alaskan Peninsula and furthermore visited the Chukotskiy Peninsula in Russia before he was heading out into the Bering Sea. Therewith he was able not only to determine the extent of Alaska, but also to close the gaps in Russian (from the West) and Spanish (from the South) exploratory probes of the Northern limits of the Pacific.
- Due to the beauty of Alaska’s landscape and scenery, the most popular hobby and must-have’s are floatplanes and boats. It is Alaska that has the highest density of floatplanes in the world. They are everywhere. All you need is water and Alaska has plenty of lakes, rivers and seas. One of the most exciting hobbies there probably is! Another one is boats. If you are driving on a highway, actually on every road there is, you will see at least a dozen of cars with boats or yards loaded on their trailer crossing your way. It almost looks like the most common accessory you have in Alaska.
- Another pleasant hobby of Alaska is a dried, green, good smelling little plant called marijuana. Since February 2015, the consumption, possession and growing of marijuana is legal in Alaska. Only partly, of course. It is the third state that allows the joy of smoking weed. There are no weed selling shops yet, but they are supposed to open in 2016. Legalization equals regulations and limitations that acquire a certain amount of time of course.
Something I really like about Alaskans is their everyday way of living. They are very relaxed and chilled. A workday usually starts at 10am. Can you imagine? And if they even come later, it does not really matter. Nobody really cares. Not even about any looks. People are dressed how they feel like. So far I have not seen one woman or one man dressed up. Everyone is dressed in the most comfortable clothes. Some people are grocery shopping in their sweatpants; some others even keep them on for having dinner in restaurants or drinks in bars. The working, the out-going, the chilling, the sleeping clothes are all the same. Sometimes it looks like people are dancing in their pajama. That is the kind of fashion statement I really admire!
Of course, this is not everything about Alaska. Not even close to! There is so much more to tell! For example about the Native Alaskans. Since this is culturally a very interesting topic, I do not want to break it down to a glance. I will definitely learn and read more about that and share my newly gained knowledge with you in another article. So far, I hope you got a first impression of this beautiful State and enjoyed the information in note form 😉