Alaska, the Last Frontier, the Great Land; by any name, there
is plenty of opportunity for activity and discovery.
In 1728 Vitus Bering, at the bidding of Tzar Peter, sailed through the Bering
Strait. For the next 20 years the Russians explored the coasts and waterways.
Naturalists, such as George Wilhelm Stellar, discovered many new species of animals.
Merchants made use of the vast resources, in particular the North Pacific Fur
Seal. Other explorers followed including Spain's Juan Perez and Alejandro Malaspina
and England's George Vancouver and James Cook.
Gold was first discovered in 1861, near
the Stikine River, only six years before Alaska
was purchased by the United States on March 30,
1867. "Seward's Folley" transferred control
of Alaska from the Russians to the U.S. for just
2 cents an acre. While it was an issue of great
contention at the time, today it is seen as one
of the greatest bargains in the history of our
country. Soon after, gold was discovered in Sitka
and Juneau and the first gold-seekers began crossing
Chilkoot Pass on route to the Yukon River. It wasn't
until 1959 that Alaska became the 49th state in
Of course, prior to European exploration, Alaska had been home to Alaskan Natives
for 10,000 years. Today, Alaska Natives make up approximately 16% of the states
population of 635,000. They are commonly divided into five general groups: The
northwest coastal Indians ( the Tlingit, Haida and Tshimshian), the Inipiaqs (or
Inuit), the Yupiks, the Aleuts and the Athabascans. Even as modern technologies
play a greater and greater roll in the lifestyles of Alaska's natives, there is
a strong drive to preserve much of their traditional lifestyles. Subsistence hunting
and gathering contributes to a healthy and traditional diet. Elders pass on the
language, history, legends and art forms to the next generation.
Alaska is one-fifth the size of the 48 contiguous states (or two and a half times
the size of Texas): 586,412 square miles. It contains more protected land than
any other state, in fact, only one-fifth of the state is accessible by roadway.
Travelers to Alaska should
be aware of the current weather conditions. Even
during the long days of summer, the weather can
change rapidly. A variety of clothing layers
should always be kept nearby, to accommodate
not only a warm, sunny day but also wind and
rain. This is particularly true when out on the
water. Having the right clothing makes all the