Alaska is one of the later states to join the United States, becoming the 49th state on January 5, 1959. Alaska is one of the two states not located in the mainland (the other being Hawaii) — in fact, it is much nearer to Russia (via Bering Strait) than to the United States. It is the largest state (663,268 square miles) and in relation to its size, it is also the least densely populated. Like many US states, Alaska was first inhabited by Native American tribes, before European explorers arrived during the 18th century. The United States bought Alaska from the Russian Empire during the 1860s. It became the Territory of Alaska from 1912 to 1959, when it was finally admitted to the Union as the 49th state.
The capital of Alaska is Juneau and its largest city is Anchorage. Alaska is home to 20 official languages, including English and other different indigenous languages. More interesting and amazing facts about “The Last Frontier” await you in this gallery!
Bering (c. 1861 – 1741) was a Danish explorer Vitus Jonassen Bering and his expedition staff sighted the southern coast of Alaska in the midst of his North American expedition, in 1741. Then he landed on the Kayak Island or its proximity and named it as Saint Elias. Unfortunately, it was to be one of his last expeditions as he and his men suffered adverse conditions and illnesses. Bering himself became too sick as well and sought refuge on the uninhabited island in the Commander Islands group, where he eventually died. That island was later named in his honor.
On August 14, 1784, a Russian fur trader named Gigory Shelekov established a permanent settlement at Three Saints Bay on Kodiak Island, Alaska. From Three Saints Bay, much of the Alaskan mainland was explored and other fur traders sailed from Russia to Alaska to do their business as well as settle there permenently. In 1784 Shelekov went back home to Russia and sent Alexandr Baranov to oversee his fur business in Alaska.
Baranov then went on to establish the Russian American Company and was granted a monopoly over Alaska.
After the Alaska Purchase in March 1867 (which follows in the next section), the Senate approved the treaty of the acquisition on April 9, and on May 29 President Andrew Johnson officially endorsed the treaty by signing it.
The following October 18, Alaska was formally handed over to the United States, therefore effectively ending any Russian presence in North America. It also secured the US access to the northern rim of the Pacific.
After over half a century under Russian Empire, the United States acquired Alaska from the Russians to the tune of $7.2 million (equivalent to about two cents per acre) on March 30, 1867. This was known as the Alaska Purchase (or Seward’s Folly, named after the US Secretary of State William H. Seward who negotiated the transaction)
Present-day Juneau, the state capital of Alaska, was then called Harrisburg which was a small town then. The discovery of gold by prospectors Joe Juneau (whom the city was named after) and Richard Harris incited the Alaskan Gold Rush, and spurred the town into explosive growth. Despite Juneau and Harris getting much of the credit, it was the Tlingit tribe Chief Kowee who directed them to the gilded treasure!
Formally known as the Aleutian Islands Campaign, the Thousand-Mile War is a battle between the USA and Japan over the Aleutian Islands, during the Second World War. This started when Japan invaded the remote islands of Attu and Kiska, the only US soil that Japan ever claimed during the battle of the Pacific.
Many historians believe that Japan seized these islands as their maneuvering move to divert the US forces as the Japanese were making their attack on Midway Island. Another possible reason is that the Japanese invaded these remote islands in order to stop the US forces from invading Japan in way of these islands. The US later successfully took back Attu and then Kiska in 1943. The islands’ remoteness, the rough seas, craggy terrains and the hostile weather proved to be difficult for both sides.
After vigorous movements from statehood supporters following the territorial referendum in 1946, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the official declaration making Alaska the 49th state of the USA on January 3, 1953.
As oil and gas have been doing good to Alaska’s economy, Alaska is the only state which only relies on revenues from oil for its government funding. The state has been generating about $157 billion from oil since 1959. More than 1/3 of Alaskans are employed to the oil sector.
After the Alaskan gold rush, then there’s the “liquid gold” — oil and natural gas. A vast state like Alaska, unsurprisingly, has also vast energy resources. Alaska comes second in national oil production, usually rolling out about 400,000 barrels per day.
The 800-mile Trans-Alaska Pipeline spans from Prudhoe Bay on the north to Valdez on the south Alaska. After the oil crisis in 1973 that caused a spike in fuel prices, this long pipeline started construction in 1974 and ended in 1977, and its construction is specially designed with heat pipes to prevent the occurrence of permafrost by melting it. This pipe can pump to 2.1 million barrels of crude oil every day.
Next to oil and gas, fishing is the third important industry in Alaska. While agriculture is limited there, Alaska has abundance in seafood. Salmon, the Bering sea crab and pollock are few of the many seafood riches that are caught either for food or for sport, or both.
Since the 17th century commercial fishing has been a major industry for Alaska, bringing in billions of revenue for the state.
More than half of the commercial fish and seafood catch in the US are caught in Alaska. Salmon has been a prolific fish in the Alaskan waters and fishermen has been harvesting salmon and other types of fish since the 17th century. Alaska’s harvest of salmon currently acounts for about 80% of the total wild-caught salmon in the whole of North America. The red king crab, which inhabit the Bering Sea, also used to be a particularly big industry in Alaska during the 1980s.
Several indigenous tribes have been inhabiting Alaska even before the arrival of the white man. They include Athabaskan, Eskimo, Eyak, Tlingit, Haida, Tsimshian, and Aleut, as well as several Native Americans (so-called Indian) groups.
Mushing is a sport which involves the use of sled dogs. Mushing may include carting, dog sled racing, weight pulling, pulking, and many others. Apart from the purposes of sport, mushing is also used for transport.
Alaska is called The Last Frontier because it has a vast expanse of land that have never been charted or explored. With a vast number of game, mineral resources and timber, Alaska is usually dubbed as the last frontier by enterprising people in particular who are willing to take risks and strike out on their own to seek wealth or make a new life there.