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Harriman Expedition Retraced



A century of change
A Century of Change

An Alaskan Gazette
An Alaskan Gazette

Alaskan Tourism
Alaska Tourism

Nature and Art
Nature and Art in Alaska

Anchorage Museum Gallery

Poetry in Alaska
Poetry in Alaska


An Alaskan Gazette

A Selective Comparison




622,000 in July, 1998

Political Status

A U.S. Possession -- Alaska did not become an official U.S. territory until 1912

Alaska became the 49th state in 1959

Governing Body

The United States Army

The Alaska State Legislature: forty representatives are elected to two-year terms; twenty state senators serve four-year terms

Representation in the United States Congress


Two U.S. Senators and one Representative from the state are sent to Washington, D.C.

Capital City

Military government maintained headquarters in Sitka


Principal Industries

Salmon, gold and fur

Oil, fish, tourism


Just How Big Is It?

  • Alaska is two and a half times larger than Texas, and 488 times larger than Rhode Island.
  • It is 1/5th the size of the entire United States.
  • The state comprises 586,412 square miles. It stretches 2400 miles from its eastern to western borders, and 1420 miles from north to south. Less than 160,000 of Alaska's 365 million acres has been developed.
  • If you were to get on a airplane at Boston's Logan Airport and fly west for three hours, you could reach Kansas City. If you were to get on the same plane in Juneau, Alaska and fly to the northwest for three hours, you would still be in Alaska. Because of its size, air travel is by far the most efficient way to get around. Not surprisingly, Alaska has six times as many airplane pilots per capita, and 16 times as many aircraft per capita, as the rest of the United States.
Air distance map

Distances within Alaska measured by air in status miles.
Credit: Alaska Geographic Alliance.
Click image for a larger view


  • Among all states, Alaska ranks 48th in total population, and 50th in population per square mile. There is approximately one Alaskan resident for every square mile in the state. By contrast, the national average is 72 residents for every square mile in the country.
  • While its population is small, it is growing at a rate faster than the national average. Between 1980 and 1990, Alaska ranked second among states population growth, growing at a rate of 36 percent. For the same period the national rate of change was 9.8 percent.
  • Alaska's population is slightly younger than the national average, with 4.2 percent of its population over 65 years, while nationally the average is 12.6 of the population over 65 years. Twenty-one percent of Alaska's residents are of school age, that is five to seventeen years old. Nationally, about 19 percent are of school age.
Population map

Alaska population by bureau and census area, 1997.
Credit: Alaska Geographic Alliance.
Click image for a larger view

Mountains, Rivers, and Wildlife

  • Mt. McKinley, at 20,320 feet, is the highest point in North America, and Alaska's Yukon River is the 3rd largest river in the United States. It flows 1875 miles in Alaska, another 423 in Canada. Only the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers are longer.
  • Wood-Tikchik State Park, with 2.5 million acres of wilderness, is America's largest state park.
  • Alaska's Chilkat River boasts the world's largest concentration of bald eagles. Over 4,000 of these birds gather during the fall and winter months for the late salmon runs.
  • The McNeil River Sanctuary has the world's largest concentration of brown bears in their natural habitat.
  • Alaska has more seabirds than the rest of the United States combined. Scientists estimate that between 80 million and 124 million seabirds occupy Alaskan waters during the summer months.
Brown bear density map

Brown bear density in Alaska.
Credit: Alaska Geographic Alliance.
Click image for a larger view

Climate, Daylight, and Seismic Activity

  • The state's highest temperature recorded, 100 degrees Fahrenheit, recorded at Fort Yukon in 1915. The lowest temperature, -80 degrees Fahrenheit, was recorded at Prospect Creek Camp in 1971.
  • In 1952-1953 the weather station at Thompson Pass, north of Valdez, registered a seasonal snowfall of 974.5 inches, the highest in the state's history.
  • Annual precipitation averages 200 inches in the southeast region, 150 inches along the northern coast of the Gulf of Alaska, and 60 inches along the Alaska Peninsula and Aleutian Islands. Precipitation amounts decrease rapidly to the north. The northern interior averages only 12 inches per year, and 6 inches per year inside the Arctic Circle.
  • When the sun rises over Barrow on May 10 it does not set again until August 2, giving this North Slope community eighty-four continuous days of sunlight. When the sun sets on November 18 it does not rise again until January 24, and leaving Barrow residents to face a night that is sixty-seven days long.
  • On Good Friday, March 27, 1964 the most powerful earthquake in United States history struck Anchorage and the South Central coast of Alaska. The quake measured 9.2 on the Richter Scale.
  • Eighty percent of all active volcanoes in the United States are located in Alaska. The state has one hundred volcanoes and volcanic fields, forty of which have erupted since records have been kept. Hardly a year goes by without a major eruption from a volcano in the Aleutian Islands archipelago.


Volcano distribution map

Volcano distribution in Alaska.
Credit: Alaska Geographic Alliance
Click image for a larger view




For information on the Harriman Retraced Expedition e-mail: harriman2001@science.smith.edu

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