The last American frontier. Nearly everything
about this 49th state is big. It's Mount McKinley is higher than any
other peak in North America. It's Yukon River is one of the longest
navigable waterways in the world. Huge animals still thrive in its
open spaces — Kodiak, grizzly, black and polar bears; moose, caribou,
musk-oxen, wolves; otter, walrus, seals, humpbacks and killer
Alaska is a land of spectacular contrasts — smoking
volcanoes and frozen tundra, hot springs and ice floes, creeping glaciers
and virgin forests. There is perhaps no natural wonder that can
rival the stunning composition of wildlife. An estimated 8,000 moose
roam the peninsula, grazing on willow and tender meadow shoots.
Nimble Dall sheep and mountain goats tread across the steep slopes.
Secluded edges of marshy lakes come alive with the honking of trumpeter
swans and Canadian geese. The magnificent caribou and salmon-hungry
brown bear are found here. Chubby-bodied puffins skim across ocean
water. Shoreline rocks and close-by islands are overwhelmed with
thousands of sea birds and pods of enormous whales surface offshore.
Bald eagles scan lush boreal forests for small prey such as the hoary
marmot, marten, weasel and snowshoe hares.
This vast, raw, and rugged land thrusts a chain of
volcanic islands more than a thousand miles southwest into the Bering Sea.
Reaching beyond the international date line, the land area originally
spanned four time zones. It juts northward far into the Artic
Circle, and to the south its panhandle extends for miles between the
Pacific Ocean and the Canadian Rockies. The Stars and Stripes have
flown over Alaska since March 30, 1867, when the vast land was purchased
from Russia for $7.2 million dollars. The name Alaska comes from the
Aleut word alaxsxaq, meaning "object toward which the action of the sea is
directed" — that is, the mainland. Its nicknames are Land of the
Midnight Sun, and America's Last Frontier. It was once labeled
"Seward's folly" and "Seward's icebox" in ridicule of the secretary of
state who negotiated the purchase of what was considered a liability.