The Last Frontier
Of all the states in this nation, the average person
probably knows the least about Alaska. There are many
common, boring facts about this state that people love to
repeat over and over. The point of this paper is not to
repeat them another painful time, but to shed light on some
of the lesser known facts about The Last Frontier. What a
better place to find these entertaining, informative, and
most of the time useless facts than on the Internet? The
Web itself served as my sole resource for all of the
following commentary.
The type of information that I gathered was expansive and
diverse. I will attempt to categorize in some way. The
easiest way to start is with some basic but unknown facts
like population. Take for instance that this obviously huge
state has only 600,000 residents. Indianapolis, IN has well
over 750,000 people just in the city. The three biggest
cities in Alaska are Anchorage (250,000), Fairbanks
(30,000), and Juneau (26,000). The city of Juneau is the
largest city in square miles in North America with 3,108.
Its population is no measure for that. How do people get
around? Well Alaska has about six times as many pilots per
capita and 16 times as many aircraft per capita as the rest
of the United States. Not too many famous people come from
Alaska. The most famous would be Jack London. He was the
author of The Call of the Wild and White Fang. In Alaska,
there are only 12,000 miles of public roads, with only half
of those being paved. An amazing fact about the scarce
population of this state is that in Alaska, caribou
outnumber people.
Several statistics exist considering the enormity of this
state. In total, there are 586,400 square miles. It was
originally purchased from Russia for around 7 million
dollars. That comes out to about 2 cents per acre. So what
is there in all of that land? Alaska has over 3 million
lakes, 3000 rivers, 1800 islands, and more than 100,000
glaciers. That is more than half of the world's glaciers.
Common sense says that if population is low, wilderness is
up. There are not too many national parks in Manhattan. In
Alaska there are 15 national parks, preserves and monuments
in the state, and there are another 117 state parks, for a
total of 322 million acres of public lands. Wow. That is
the largest park system in the U.S. (see map). It is so big
it has dozens of ecosystems (see map). These range from the
dry arctic tundra of the northern part of the state to the
moist rain forests of the Inside Passage, to the desert of
sand dunes in Kobuk Valley. Alaska in shape is sort of a
deformed peninsula, jutting off of North America. It
borders two oceans (Arctic and Pacific. duhh) and three
seas, and has 47,300 miles of coastline (see map). As for
diversity of people, seven Native cultures and several
sub-cultures live throughout the state. People here have to
pay taxes. Some of these may seem interesting to you. In
1995, local governments generated approximately $748
million in revenues. Of that amount, $620.5 million was
from property taxes. Prudhoe Bay and the Trans-Alaska
Pipeline (TAPs) contribute over $253 million of those
property taxes to local government. In 16 places in Alaska,
the borough system is used. In recent years, the
availability of government-sponsored support, such as food
stamps and welfare, has diminished greatly. People short on
cash who consider relocating to Alaska cannot count on
these programs as much as other places.
Here are some tidbits on the resources and climate of
Alaska. A common myth is that everywhere you go in this
state it is unbearably cold. Well, for the most part it is.
But there are exceptions. Several other climate types occur
here. The coldest part of the state is obviously the north.
The lowest temperature ever recorded in the U.S. came from
Prospect Creek, AL with a measurement of -800 F. In
contrast, the highest temperature in the state happened at
Fort Yukon with a temp of 1000F. That is an enormous
difference in temperature! But when it does snow, watch
out. The record for snowfall in a 24 hour period is 62
inches (5.2 feet!). The record for a year is, ahemm... 974
inches from Thompson Alaska. The climate does change. The
summer are warm and wet. Certain areas receive a lot of
precipitation year-round. The mountains are big here,
everybody knows that. But what I learned is that Alaska has
had at least 41 volcanic eruptions since 1700 (see map). It
is truly one of the most seismic-active regions in the
world. Since the turn of the century, 25 percent of all
earthquake energy released in the world has been released
by earthquakes in Alaska (see map) Everybody knows about
the Alaskan Pipeline. Through it, 25% of the United States'
oil is received.
Well hopefully that wasn't too boring, and I hope that you
learned something. What I have gathered is that if you
don't mind numbing cold, and the lack of people, but love
pure wilderness, then Alaska is the place for you. It truly
is the Last Frontier. Just ask the 600,000 people that live
there. J 
Anchorage Fairbanks Juneau Nome
High Low High Low High Low High Low 

January 20 6 -4 -22 27 16 13 -2 

April 43 28 41 20 47 31 25 10 

July 65 51 72 50 64 48 57 44
October 41 28 33 17 47 37 34 22


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