For some reason, I always thought Hawaii was our 49th state, and Alaska the 50th. Our largest state entered the Union on January 3, 1959, when I was in the 7th grade. It was acquired in 1867, mostly known then as “Seward’s Folly” after the U.S. Secretary of State who engineered the purchase form Russia. I would imagine Putin probably throws daily darts at a photo of Seward on his bathroom wall each morning. But at $7.2 million, the cost was a bargain at about 2 cents per acre!
The multitude of critics thought it was a horrible waste of money until gold was discovered in the Yukon in the 1890s. Alaska is bordered by the Beaufort Sea and Arctic Ocean to the north, Canada’s Yukon Territory and British Columbia to the east, the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Alaska to the south, and Bering Sea and Bering Strait to the west. They say you can see a small Russian island from a small Aleutian Island. “Although the Strait’s narrowest point is about 53 miles (85 km) wide, there are two islands in its center, Little Diomede (U.S.) and Big Diomede (Russia), which bring the distance of these two nations only 2.5 (4 km) miles apart at their closest point.”
And the answer to a trivia question is answered here as well. The question, where does the sun rise first in the United States? Well, before annexation of Alaska, it was in Maine, at a place called Mars Point or West Quoddy Head Lighthouse. But look at it a little differently.
Some would argue that the honor should go to Pochnoi Point, Semisopochnoi Island, Alaska, since it is located just west of the 180 degree meridian (ignoring the westerly deviation of the international dateline). Accepting this argument, it would be the “first” to see the sunrise of a new day making it the furthest point “east” in the US.
If you include the US territories, the Wake Islands to the west of the international date line would see the sunrise the day before the rest of the US. In the east, the U.S. Virgin Islands would see the sunrise first.
The capitol is not Anchorage, largest city in Alaska, but Juneau, smaller and somewhat closer to the U.S. mainland. And its nickname, “Land of the Midnight Sun” is certainly true. I was once there is August, and it never really got dark!
Interestingly, Japan occupied two Alaskan islands during World War 2.Attu and Kiska were occupied by Japanese troops for 15 months. And little did I know that Alaska has 17 of the 20 highest peaks in the U.S. Mt. McKinley, recently renamed Denali by President Obama, stands at 20,320 feet above sea level.
But I had no idea that Alaska has over 5000 earthquakes per year. The strongest was 9.2 (highest ever recorded in the U.S.) at Prince William Sound in 1964. The coldest temperature recorded was minus 80 F in 1971 at Prospect Creek Camp.
People have inhabited Alaska since 10,000 BCE. At that time a land bridge extended from Siberia to eastern Alaska, and migrants followed herds of animals across it. Of these migrant groups, the Athabaskans, Aleuts, Inuit, Yupik, Tlingit and Haida remain in Alaska. And many explorers were commissioned by Russia to find a modern land bridge to Alaska. Many died while exploring.
So, who is the Governor now that Sarah Palin works for Trump? Some guy named Bill Walker. I have been to Alaska twice, both on business, back in the 80s. The last time, I was returning to the Bay Area when the earthquake hit on October 17, 1989. We were the last plane to land at SFO before they closed it down. It took me three hours to get home on the freeway, via San Jose. Game 3 of the World Series would be delayed for several days.
So, why am I here now? To see the famous Northern Lights, the Aurora Borealis.