Amazing Alaska – The Last Frontier

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Alaska is an amazing land that can take your breath away.

“Let’s get away from it all” the famous number that Frank Sinatra first sang in the forties, has the following line in its lyrics:

“ I repeat I love you sweet in all the forty eight”.

Sinatra was no doubt referring to the number of states (48) in the United States. It’s only much later from the fifties onwards that America began to annex the four additional states, Hawaii, Alaska, Oklahoma and New Mexico. However, the figure 52 was not incorporated even later in the song replacing 48.

America did not acquire the additional four states by military force or any other violent means. They were friendly acquisitions. However, only in the case of Hawaii America might have felt the need to acquire it for defense preparedness, having experienced the Japanese Air attack by surprise on Pearl Harbour in the beginning of World War ll which had forced America to give up its isolationism and enter the war. The rest is history.

It would come as a surprise to most people, that America bought Alaska from the Russian Empire for $ 7.2 million at the rate of 2 cents an acre. In history’s catalogue of exploitative purchase of astronomically high value real estate, from a gullible seller, for a pittance, this must surely rank second only to the purchase of Manhattan from an Indian Tribe by Dutch settlers for the value of 60 guilders (now $ 951) in 1626. Alaska was admitted as the 49th state in 1959.

With a huge area of 663268 square miles, Alaska is over  twice the size of Texas or put differently Alaska has an area larger than Texas, California and Montana put together.Alaska is one of the 14 American states with only one Telephone Area Code. Alaska is not divided into counties as the rest of the states in the United States but into boroughs. It has glacier ice covering 28957 square miles, and three million lakes. The highest mountain in North America Denali, is in Alaska. The highest peak in Alaska is also Denali (Mount Mckinley). Russia’s Big Diamed island  and Alaska’s Little Diamed Island are  only 3 miles apart and therefore the territorial waters of Russia and the territorial waters of Alaska touch each other in the Behring Strait.

Alaska’s population in 2015 was738432 (half of Alaska’s residents live in Greater Metropolitan Anchorage). Alaska’s population is made up of 66.7% white, 14.8% American Indian and Alaskan native, 5.4%  Asian, 3.3% Blacks and the rest of other racial groups. About 84% of Alaskans above  the age of 5 speak only English. Alaska has 20 indigenous official languages though not adopted for official use.

As far as religious affiliation is concerned 100960 were evangelical protestants, and 38070 mainline protestants and 50866 were Roman Catholics, in 2010. There were 6000 Jews about 2000 to 5000 Muslims, 2000 Hindus, and the rest belonging to other religious denominations. In 2014 the Muslims built a mosque. Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains celebrate functions together  and share venues for social activities.

Oil was discovered in Prudhoe Bay in 1968 and the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System was completed 1977. This led to an economic boom, followed by a repeal of income tax. The Trans-Alaskan-Pipeline can transport and pump 2.1 million barrels a day. The economy is dominated by the oil and gas industry. Petroleum extraction accounts for 80% of the State’s revenues. Alaska’s exports are seafood (Alaskan salmon oil is one of the richest sources of Omega 3 Fatty acid, used extensively as an anti-oxidant ). Crude petroleum, natural gas, precious metals and timber are notable industrial outputs. Heating of homes in Alaska is by gas and the temperature is not regulated by air conditioning as in the rest of America.

The most powerful earthquake in recorded history  which registered 9.2 moment magnitude  and was thousand times more powerful than the San Francisco earthquake of 1985, killed 133 people  and destroyed many villages  in Alaska on March 27th 1964.

Fortunately, the time of the year, and the time of the day were factors that spared thousands of lives particularly in Anchorage, while the location of the epicentre spared extensive destruction of property in towns and villages.

Most people tend to imagine Alaska is the coldest place on the planet. If would be more appropriate to regard it as one of the coldest countries, as the weather is different in the different regions within Alaska. North Alaska which has an arctic climate with long very cold winters and cool summers is perhaps the coldest region in Alaska. The temperature rises barely above freezing even in July. In Fairbanks in the interior of Alaska, the temperature can fall below -60 degrees Fahrenheit. The highest and lowest temperatures in Alaska are both in the interior. The highest recorded was 100 degrees Fahrenheit on January 23, 1915 in Fort Yukon. The lowest ever recorded was -80 degrees Fahrenheit in Prospect Creek. This is one degree higher than the coldest temperature ever recorded in North America in Snag, Yukon Canada. Anchorage has a climate mild by Alaskan standards because of its being near the seacoast.

However, Anchorage does have its share of snow. The South East is both the wettest and warmest part of Alaska with milder temperatures in winter. This is also the only region in Alaska in which the average daytime high temperature is above freezing during the winter months. One of the reasons most regions in Alaska are very cold in general is that precipitation released from the clouds in the form of freezing cold rain, sleet, and snow practically drops to the surface, throughout the year.

PHOTO CREDITS: ARJUN VILAYANUR, CALIFORNIA(SON OF RAVI) WHO HAD VISITED ALASKA RECENTLY