Portal:Alaska

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Introduction

Location of Alaska

Alaska (/əˈlæskə/ (listen) ə-LAS-kə; Aleut: Alax̂sxax̂; Inupiaq: Alaasikaq; Alutiiq: Alas'kaaq; Yup'ik: Alaskaq; Tlingit: Anáaski) is a state located in the Western United States on the northwest extremity of North America. A semi-exclave of the U.S., it borders the Canadian province of British Columbia and the territory of Yukon to the east and shares a maritime border with the Russian Federation's Chukotka Autonomous Okrug to the west, just across the Bering Strait. To the north are the Chukchi and Beaufort seas of the Arctic Ocean, while the Pacific Ocean lies to the south and southwest.

Alaska is by far the largest U.S. state by area, comprising more total area than the next three largest states (Texas, California, and Montana) combined. It represents the seventh largest subnational division in the world. It is the third-least populous and the most sparsely populated state, but by far the continent's most populous territory located mostly north of the 60th parallel, with a population of 736,081 as of 2020—more than quadruple the combined populations of Northern Canada and Greenland. Approximately half of Alaska's residents live within the Anchorage metropolitan area. The state capital of Juneau is the second-largest city in the United States by area, comprising more territory than the states of Rhode Island and Delaware. The former capital of Alaska, Sitka, is the largest U.S. city by area.

What is now Alaska has been home to various indigenous peoples for thousands of years; it is widely believed that the region served as the entry point for the initial settlement of North America by way of the Bering land bridge. The Russian Empire was the first to actively colonize the area beginning in the 18th century, eventually establishing Russian America, which spanned most of the current state. The expense and difficulty of maintaining this distant possession prompted its sale to the U.S. in 1867 for US$7.2 million (equivalent to $140 million in 2021), or approximately two cents per acre ($4.74/km2). The area went through several administrative changes before becoming organized as a territory on May 11, 1912. It was admitted as the 49th state of the U.S. on January 3, 1959.

While it has one of the smallest state economies in the country, Alaska's per capita income is among the highest, owing to a diversified economy dominated by fishing, natural gas, and oil, all of which it has in abundance. United States armed forces bases and tourism are also a significant part of the economy; more than half the state is federally owned public land, including a multitude of national forests, national parks, and wildlife refuges.

The indigenous population of Alaska is proportionally the highest of any U.S. state, at over 15 percent. Close to two dozen native languages are spoken, and Alaskan Natives exercise considerable influence in local and state politics. (Full article...)

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Location of trans-Alaska pipeline

The Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) is an oil transportation system spanning Alaska, including the trans-Alaska crude-oil pipeline, 11 pump stations, several hundred miles of feeder pipelines, and the Valdez Marine Terminal. TAPS is one of the world's largest pipeline systems. It is commonly called the Alaska pipeline, trans-Alaska pipeline, or Alyeska pipeline, (or the pipeline as referred to in Alaska), but those terms technically apply only to the 800 miles (1,287 km) of the pipeline with the diameter of 48 inches (1.22 m) that conveys oil from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez, Alaska. The crude oil pipeline is privately owned by the Alyeska Pipeline Service Company.

The pipeline was built between 1975 and 1977, after the 1973 oil crisis caused a sharp rise in oil prices in the United States. This rise made exploration of the Prudhoe Bay oil field economically feasible. Environmental, legal, and political debates followed the discovery of oil at Prudhoe Bay in 1968, and the pipeline was built only after the oil crisis provoked the passage of legislation designed to remove legal challenges to the project.

In building the pipeline, engineers faced a wide range of difficulties, stemming mainly from the extreme cold and the difficult, isolated terrain. The construction of the pipeline was one of the first large-scale projects to deal with problems caused by permafrost, and special construction techniques had to be developed to cope with the frozen ground. The project attracted tens of thousands of workers to Alaska, causing a boomtown atmosphere in Valdez, Fairbanks, and Anchorage. (Full article...)
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A bear in Kodiak Island, Alaska, US

The Kodiak bear (Ursus arctos middendorffi), also known as the Kodiak brown bear, sometimes the Alaskan brown bear, inhabits the islands of the Kodiak Archipelago in southwest Alaska. It is the largest recognized subspecies or population of the brown bear, and one of the two largest bears alive today, the other being the polar bear.

Physiologically, the Kodiak bear is very similar to the other brown bear subspecies, such as the mainland grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis) and the extinct California grizzly bear (U. a. californicus), with the main difference being size. While there is generally much variation in size between brown bears in different areas, most usually weigh between 115 and 360 kg (254 and 794 lb). The Kodiak bear, on the other hand, commonly reaches sizes of 300 to 600 kg (660 to 1,320 lb), and has even been known to exceed a weight of 680 kg (1,500 lb). Despite this large variation in size, the diet and lifestyle of the Kodiak bear do not differ greatly from those of other brown bears.

Kodiak bears have interacted with humans for centuries, especially hunters and other people in the rural coastal regions of the archipelago. The bears are hunted for sport and are encountered by hunters pursuing other species. Less frequently, Kodiak bears are killed by people whose property (such as livestock) or person are threatened. There is increasing focus on conservation and protection of the Kodiak bear population as human activity in its range increases. The IUCN classifies the brown bear (Ursus arctos), of which the Kodiak is a subspecies, as being of "least concern" in terms of endangerment or extinction, though the IUCN does not differentiate between subspecies and thus does not provide a conservation status for the Kodiak population. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game however, along with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to a lesser extent, closely monitor the size and health of the population and the number of bears hunted in the state. (Full article...)
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St. Michael's Cathedral in Sitka.
Photo credit: Jeremy Keith

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State facts

  • Total area: 663,268 mi2
    • Land: 571,936 mi2
    • Water: 91,332 mi2
  • Highest elevation: 20,310 ft (Denali)
  • Population 741,894 (2016 est)
  • Admission to the Union: January 3, 1959 (49th)

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