Warning: Alaskans are very friendly. Do not be alarmed if residents smile and greet you or offer assistance, they only want you to have a great time!
Fun Alaska Facts
Alaska is land worthy of many superlatives. Here we provide you with an interesting collection of some of Alaska's vital statistics that may help satisfy your curiosity and whet your appetite.
Name Origin: The name of Alaska comes from the Aleut work Alyeska, meaning The Great Land.
Nick Names: The last frontier, Land of the Midnight Sun, The Far North.
Motto: North to the Future
Capital: Juneau is the only capital in the United States accessible only by boat or plane.
Statehood: The US purchased Alaska from Russia in 1867 for $7,200,000.00 (about 2 cents an acre) and made it the union's 49th state on January 3, 1959.
Land Area Size: Alaska is the largest state in the union, covering 570,373 square miles, approximately one fifth of the entire United States. Alaska is so large that the state of Rhode Island could fit into Alaska 425 times.
Population: The population of Alaska is only 626,932 and compared to the population of bears in Alaska, there is 1 bear for every 21 people.
Tallest Mt. in North America: Mt. McKinley stands at 20,320 feet. Alaska is also home to 16 of the 20 highest mountains in the U.S.
Greatest concentration of glaciers in North America: There are more active glaciers and ice fields in Alaska than in the rest of the inhabited world. The largest glacier is Malaspina at 805 square miles.
State Symbols and emblems:
•State Bird: Alaska Willow Ptarmigan •State Tree: Sitka Spruce •State Marine Mammal: Bowhead Whale •State Fish: King Salmon, also known as the Chinook Salmon •State Sport: Dog Mushing •State Gem: Jade •State Mineral: Gold •State Insect: Four spot skimmer dragonfly
Light vs. Dark: The Arctic Circle is an imaginary circle around the globe where on December 21 the sun never rises for twenty-four hours and on June 21 for twenty-four hours it never sets.
Gardening: Giant vegetables are common in Alaska due to the extremely long days in summer which account for a record cabbage weighing in at 94.7 pounds.
LEARN TO "SPEAK ALASKAN"
Alaska is unique in every way - it even has its own vocabulary. We offer you a guide to some of the words and phrases, ancient and recent, known only to those who inhabit Alaska. Study these terms and you just might convince the locals that you are a true sourdough.
Outside: Anywhere outside Alaska but generally means the continental 48 states. When a local goes on vacation, they are headed "outside" or "The lower 48".
Eskimo Ice Cream: The fat of a Seal or Caribou is whipped to a creamy texture and mixed with chopped meat or berries. Yummy!
Muktuk: An Eskimo delicacy consisting of the skin and attached layer of whale blubber. It can be eaten dried or cooked, but usually prepared raw.
Muskeg: Swamp or bog composed of layers of decomposing plant life. Often found in tundra regions.
Termination Dust: The construction workers during the building boom in the 1940's called the snowfall each year termination dust because it meant the end of their jobs would be terminated for the season. Now, it is used to refer to the first snowfall signaling the end of the summer season.
Cheechako: The Alaskan term for someone who is new to the country. A "tenderfoot" "green horn".
Denali: Literally, means the "High One" or the "Great One" , Denali is the name given to the massive peak also known as Mt. McKinley, by the Athabascan Native People. Congress officially changed the name of Mt. McKinley National Park to Denali National Park in the Alaskan Lands Act in 1980.
Sourdough: The name originally came from the Gold Rush of 1898 era when prospectors and other wanderers carried a lump of fermented starter dough for making bread in pouch around their neck. The fermented dough was kept close the body, to stay warm. A sourdough pouch hanging around a miner's neck was a clear sign of experience in survival. So, the term came to be associated with an old timer or someone who has been in the North Country a long time.
Lower 48: Alaskans refer to the continental United States as the lower 48.
Combat Fishing: Alaska features the most salmon rich fishing streams in the world. Opening day is so eagerly anticipated that hundreds of Anglers will line the banks of the river, shoulder to shoulder, casting for fish. The trick is to actually hook a salmon and not a fellow salmon fisherman.
Tundra: The word comes from the Finnish word meaning barren or treeless land. Most of the Tundra exist on the planet exist in the Northern Hemisphere in a belt along the Arctic Ocean.
Mukluks: Mukluks are a soft boot made of caribou or sealskin and typically worn by the Eskimo.
Noseeums: Tiny winged insects (a form of small gnat) that is nearly invisible. The bug packs a nasty bite slightly less bothersome than a bear chewing your leg off.
Iditarod: Known as the "The Last Great Race on Earth". From Anchorage, in south central Alaska, to Nome on the western Bering Sea coast, each team of 12 to 16 dogs and their musher cover over 1150 miles in 10 to 17 days.
Ice fog: Is what occurs when water vapor meets bitter cold air that can't hold any more water in 10 seconds or less. Water cooled that fast forms tiny ice particles. Collectively, millions of these particles take form as ice fog, the cotton candy-like clouds that hang over our roads.
Break up: The spring melting season is a season unto itself. The rivers thaw and begin to flow again, carrying huge chunks of ice down river. Breakup is followed by days of celebration as Alaskan's emerge from long, long winter nights.
Aurora Borealis: The official term for northern lights, which are visible for more than half the year in the far north. The University of Alaska Fairbanks houses a research center dedicated to studying the phenomena which is caused by magnetic particles from the sun as they hit the earths atmosphere.
Permanent Fund: A state savings account created by constitutional amendment that requires at least 25% of Alaska's royalties from oil to be set aside, with only the interest earnings available for spending. Permanent residents receive a yearly dividend check.
Mushing: Is the game of sled dog racing.
Cache: A small shed like building on stilts where furriers and hunters kept there goods.
Alcan: The Alaska Highway, also "Alaska-Canadian Highway", "Al-Can Highway", runs form Dawson Creek, British Columbia to Fairbanks, Alaska via Whitehorse, Yukon. It is 1,523 miles or 2,451 kilometers long.
Blanket toss: The blanket toss is now conducted as entertainment, but it didn't originate that way. The Inupiaq hunter would be tossed in the air, enabling them to see across the horizon to hunt game. Now thirty or more Inupiaq gather in a circle, holding the edges of a large skin made from walrus hides, and toss someone into the air as high as possible. The person being tossed throws gifts into the crowd and loses their turn when they lose their balance. The object: to maintain balance and return to the blanket without falling over. This is one of many games played during the course of a 10-day celebration.
Totems: Totem poles are known as silent storytellers, depicting figures that were relevant to a specific Native tribe.
Ulu: The native people of northern Alaska invented this knife centuries ago. It is used for hunting, fishing, skinning, filleting and every other imaginable domestic cutting need by the Inuit (Eskimo) people. Nowadays, replicas can be purchased at any souvenir shop in Alaska.
Ice worms: Ice worms are real. They live in pools of water and crawl around between ice crystals near the glacier surface. Ice worms have been observed to move around in the ice at depths near two meters. Even in the Alaska Range, the glacial ice at that depth can remain near freezing and so can provide at least a marginal ice worm habitat.
Alaska Facts and Trivia
1. Outsiders first discovered Alaska in 1741 when Danish explorer Vitus Jonassen Bering sighted it on a voyage from Siberia.
2. Russian whalers and fur traders on Kodiak Island established the first settlement in Alaska in 1784.
3. In 1867 United States Secretary of State William H. Seward offered Russia $7,200,000, or two cents per acre, for Alaska.
4. On October 18, 1867 Alaska officially became the property of the United States. Many Americans called the purchase "Seward's Folly."
5. Joe Juneau's 1880 discovery of gold ushered in the gold rush era.
6. In 1943 Japan invaded the Aleutian Islands, which started the One Thousand Mile War, the first battle fought on American soil since the Civil War.
7. Alaska officially became the 49th state on January 3, 1959.
8. Alaska's most important revenue source is the oil and natural gas industry.
9. Alaska accounts for 25% of the oil produced in the United States.
10.The state of Rhode Island could fit into Alaska 425 times.
11.Prudhoe Bay, on the northern Alaskan coast, is North America's largest oil field.
12.The Trans-Alaska Pipeline moves up to 88,000 barrels of oil per hour on its 800 mile journey to Valdez.
13.The fishing and seafood industry is the state's largest private industry employer.
14.Most of America's salmon, crab, halibut, and herring come from Alaska.
15.The term Alaska native refers to Alaska's original inhabitants including Aleut, Eskimo and Indian groups.
16.The wild forget-me-not is the official state flower. The Territorial Legislature adopted it in 1917.
17.The willow ptarmigan is the official state bird. The Territorial Legislature adopted it in 1955.
18.The Sitka spruce is the official state tree. The Territorial Legislature adopted it in 1962.
19.Dog mushing is the official state sport. The Alaska Legislature adopted it in 1972.
20.An unnamed draftsman created the state seal in 1910. It consists of a rising sun shining on forests, lake, fishing and shipping boats, and agricultural and mining activities.
21.The state motto is North to the Future.
22.The jade is the official state gemstone.
23.Gold is the official state mineral. It was named the state mineral in 1968.
24.The four-spot skimmer dragonfly is the official state insect.
25.In 1926 13-year-old Bennie Benson from Cognac, Alaska designed the state flag.
26.Alaska has been called America's Last Frontier.
27.Every four years Alaskans elect a Governor and a Lieutenant Governor to four-year terms.
28.The Alaska State Legislature is made up of a Senate and a House of Representatives.
29.Twenty senators are elected to four-year terms; forty representatives serve two-year terms.
30.Alaska's Constitution was adopted in 1956 and became effective in 1959 making it the 49th state.
31.Nearly one-third of Alaska lies within the Arctic Circle.
32.The Alaska Highway was originally built as a military supply road during World War II.
33.The state boasts the lowest population density in the nation.
34.The discovery of gold in the Yukon began a gold rush in 1898. Later gold was discovered at Nome and Fairbanks.
35.Alaska is a geographical marvel. When a scale map of Alaska is superimposed on a map of the 48 lower states, Alaska extends from coast to coast.
36.The state's coastline extends over 6,600 miles.
37.Alaska is the United State's largest state and is over twice the size of Texas. Measuring from north to south the state is approximately 1,400 miles long and measuring from east to west it is 2,700 miles wide.
38.Agattu, Attu, and Kiska are the only parts of North America occupied by Japanese troops during World War II.
39.Oil is the state's most valuable natural resource. The area includes what is thought to be the largest oil field in North America.
40.In 1986 Mount Augustine erupted near Anchorage.
41.Alaska's geographic center is 60 miles northwest of Mount McKinley.
42.The Tongass National Forest is the largest national forest in the United States.
43.17 of the 20 highest peaks in the United States are located in Alaska.
44.At 20,320 feet above sea level, Mt. McKinley, located in Alaska's interior, is the highest point in North America.
45.Juneau is the only capital city in the United States accessible only by boat or plane.
46.The state's largest city is Anchorage; the second largest is Fairbanks.
47.The Alaska Range is the largest mountain chain in the state. It covers from the Alaska Peninsula to the Yukon Territory.
48.In 1915 the record high temperature in Alaska was 100 degrees Fahrenheit at Fort Yukon; the record low temperature was -80 degrees Fahrenheit at Prospect Creek Camp in 1971.
49.The Alaskan malamute sled dog is strong and heavily coated. It was developed as a breed by a group of Eskimos named the Malamutes.
50.Alaska's name is based on the Eskimo word Alakshak meaning great lands or peninsula.