Thursday, March 28, 2013

Facts and misconceptions about Alaska!

Lately I have been doing a lot of research about Alaska. I want to learn as much as I can about the state before we move. It is such an interesting state. I found this website call and they show all these awesome facts about Alaska. I didn't even know most of the facts mentioned below, so it is so neat to find out all these interesting things.

1. Alaska was the 49th state in the USA; it became a state on January 3, 1959.
2. State Abbreviation - AK
3. State Capital - Juneau
4. Largest City - Anchorage
Area - 656,425 square miles [Alaska is the biggest state in the USA]
5. Population - 626,932 (as of 2000) [Alaska is the 48th most populous state in the USA]
6. Name for Residents - Alaskans
7. Major Industry - oil (petroleum)
8. Major Lakes - Iliamna Lake, Aleknagik Lake, Becharof Lake, Clark Lake, Minchumina Lake
9. Highest Point - Mt. McKinley - 20,320 feet (6,194 m) above sea level - this is the highest point in the USA.
10. Number of Boroughs (Counties) - 27
11. Bordering US States - none
12. Bordering Country - Canada
13. Bordering Body of Water - Arctic Ocean, Pacific Ocean, Beaufort Sea, Bering Sea, Gulf of Alaska
14. Origin of the Name Alaska - The word Alaska is from the Aleut Indian word "alaxsxaq" or "agunalaksh" that mean the mainland or shore.
15. State Nickname - The Last Frontier
16. State Motto - "North To The Future"
17. State Song - Alaska's Flag
18. Dinosaur Fossils Found in Alaska - Albertosaurus, Ankylosaur (unknown genus), Edmontosaurus, Pachycephalosaurus, Pachyrhinosaurus, Saurornitholestes, Thescelosaurus, Troƶdon

Alaska State Symbols and Emblems: State Flag

The official state flag of Alaska was officially adopted in 1959. The golden stars represent the Big Dipper (an asterism in the constellation Ursa Major, the Big Bear) and the North Star, also called Polaris (representing Alaska's northern location). This beautiful flag was chosen from a flag-designing contest. It was designed in 1926 by a 13-year-old Native American boy named Bennie Benson. Bennie was from the village of Chignik; he won a 1,000-dollar scholarship and a watch for winning the contest.

Also there are many misconceptions about Alaska. I mean, I myself thought I had Alaska all figured out even before doing this research, but boy was I wrong! I found this website as well: This site was created and is maintained by Douglas J. Gates of Soldotna/Kenai, Alaska and clears up many misconceptions that people have about Alaska. Below are some questions viewers asked Douglas and his responses to those questions:

1. Do you live in an igloo?
-No, I live in an perfectly normal 7-plex. All cities and major towns in Alaska have regular houses, apartments, buildings, etc. Even in the bush, people live in houses.

2. Don't you get cold?
-If I went outside in the middle of January wearing nothing but a t-shirt and shorts, then I'd get cold. However, like anybody else who lives somewhere that gets below freezing during the winter, I dress to keep warm.

3. How do you keep warm?
-That depends on where I am and what I'm doing. In just normal travelling from home to work or to the store, I'm never outside long enough to get too cold. If I'm ice fishing, I can plan on being outside in -20° C weather for several hours, so I dress for it - long johns, jeans, sweater, button-up shirt, snowpants, down coat, face mask, scarf, thick hat, thick gloves, and bunny boots.

4. Is it really dark most of the year?
-This surprises a lot of people, but Alaska doesn't have more darkness than light. It may be dark most of the time during the winters, but during the summer it is light most of the time so it evens out. How long the darkness/light lasts depend on how far north you are. In Barrow, the sun may not rise during the middle of winter, and may not set during the summer. In the Southcentral, the sun does set during the summer but it may not get any darker than twilight. The sun does rise in winter but doesn't get very high as you can see in this picture taken near noon on the Winter Solstice.

5. Do you have electricity and computers up there?
-How else would I have created this web page?

6. Is all of Alaska covered by ice?
-Only about 5% of Alaska is covered by permanent ice. The rest of it is swamp, forest, mountain, plains, tundra, muskeg, marsh, etc.

7. Do you get a lot of snow?
-That depends on where in Alaska you are. Some parts of Alaska are desert and so receive little precipitation in any form. Other areas can receive several meters of snow during the winter. In the part of Alaska I live in, we average a few feet per year.

8. Do you travel by dog sled?
-I drive a Dodge pickup. In the city, cars are the primary means of transportation. In the bush areas, cars and trucks may be used, but 3-wheelers, 4-wheelers, and snowmachines are the main forms of transportation. Most dog teams that exist today are mainly used for sport, although a few bush villages still use dog teams for transportation.

9. Do you use Russian/Canadian currency?
-We use American money. I have noticed, however, that many Alaskan stores and vending machines will accept Canadian coins. All the lower-48 stores I've been to refuse to accept any Canadian coins, period.

10. Do you have penguins up there?
-Aside from the 'beanie baby' type of toy penguins, we do not have any, not even at the zoo. Most people associate penguins with snow, ice, and cold weather. Although we have the climate that people would expect penguins to live in, they are only found in the southern hemisphere.

11. Are Moose dangerous?
-Moose, if provoked, can be quite a deadly animal. A single kick from one can be fatal. There are a lot of moose in town and most of them will leave people alone if given enough room. There have been a few fatal attacks though, but these have happened because the victim came too close (not always intentionally--moose can be hard to see in the dark of night). I've heard (from professional hunting guides so I tend to believe this) that in the wild one often has more to fear from moose than bears in that a moose may attack without any provocation.

12. Can you speak Eskimo?
-First, I'd like to say there there isn't any single language that can be called 'Eskimo'. There are different groups of Eskimos in Alaska and they each have a different language such as Inupiaq, Yup'ik, and Siberian Yup'ik. The Native people of the area I grew up in were Yup'ik Eskimo so Yup'ik was the language spoken in that area. I know many Yup'ik words and phrases, but I don't know enough to carry on a conversation. It wasn't really necessary for me to learn Yup'ik since most people there spoke English as well.

13. Have you ever been in an earthquake?
-Yes, lots of them. Alaska has over 1,000 earthquakes each year that measure 3.5 or higher on the Richter scale. Only a small handfull of these earthquakes are near enough to where I live for me to feel them.

14. What's the largest earthquake you've ever been in?
-That would be the November 3rd earthquake of 2002, a 7.9 quake that hit the Alaska Range. I live quite far away from the epicenter so it didn't feel that severe to me, although the ground did shake for a long time.

15. What is there to do if I visit Alaska?
-That depends on what you like doing. If you're into outdoor sports there's hiking, fishing, camping, kayaking, canoeing, and biking. If you're into history and culture, there's plenty of places to visit to learn about both, such as Anchorage, Nome, Juneau, Skagway, and many others. If you're visiting for the scenery and wildlife, there's the cruise through the Inside Passage, Kenai Fjords tours, many glacier cruises, Denali Park tours, the Alaska Railroad, dozens of flightseeing companies, and much more.

16. What causes the northern lights?
-The origin of the Aurora borealis is the sun. Every now and then a solar flare on the sun's surface will send a bunch of charged particles hurtling through space. If the Earth is in the path of this cloud, some of the particles will become trapped in the Earth's magnetic field and will follow the lines of magnetic force to the magnetic north and south poles where they enter the atmosphere. As the particles encounter the various gasses of the atmosphere, they begin to glow in colors such as green (the most common color), red, blue, and violet.

17. What bodies of water border Alaska?
-Alaska has many bodies of water bordering it. To the north is the Arctic Ocean and Beaufort Sea. To the northwest is the Chukchi Sea. The Bering Strait and Bering Sea lie along the west and southwest of Alaska, as well as the north of the Aleutian Islands. The Pacific Ocean borders the southern coastline of Alaska.

18. How many mountain ranges are in Alaska?
-This depends on what definition of "mountain range" you follow. Typically, many people and publications consider there to be 11 mountain ranges in Alaska: Alaska Range, Aleutian Range, Brooks Range, Chugach Mountains, Coast Mountains, Kenai Mountains, Kuskokwim Mountains, Nulato Hills, St. Elias Mountains, Talkeetna Mountains, and Wrangell Mountains. If you want to get technical, many of these groups are actually considered to be the same range, such as the Chugach Mountains and the Kenai Mountains or the Alaska Range and the Talkeetna Mountains. Then there are the mountains that aren't counted as mountain ranges, such as the mountains on the Seward Peninsula or the Yukon/Tanana Uplands. Of course, there are also dozens of smaller ranges within each of the ranges I've named. For example, Ahklun Mountains and Kilbuck Mountains, both subranges of the Kuskokwim Mountains.

19. What are the two major mountain ranges in Alaska?
-The Alaska Range and Brooks Range are considered to be Alaska's two largest mountain ranges.

20. Why does snow stay on mountain tops?
-Three factors, acting alone or in combination, allow snow to remain on mountain tops well into summer and even all year long: temperature, snow quantity, and sunlight (or lack thereof). Many higher mountains are so high that the temperature at their tops rarely climbs far above freezing, even in the middle of summer. Massive amounts of snow can create snow drifts so deep that it may take until July or even August for it to melt. This, combined with the lower temperatures at high altitudes, enables snow to remain on mountain tops long after it's melted from the lower areas. Finally, since the sun in Alaska remains relatively near the horizon in the summer, the northern sides of many mountain tops receive little direct sunlight, slowing the melting of the snow.

21. Why don't lakes and rivers freeze solid?
-If they're small enough, they will. However, any lake or river of sufficient size will not freeze solid. The reason most lakes and rivers don't freeze solid is because water, ice, and snow are good insulators and poor conductors of heat. The portions of a lake or river that are exposed to the cold winter air will freeze into ice and this ice insulates the water below from further rapid freezing. Also contributing to the prevention of bodies of water freezing solid is an interesting characteristic of water. Like most other forms of matter, water become denser as it cools, but beginning at about 39°F (4°C) something odd happens - water begins to lose density as it gets colder, becoming least dense when it freezes into ice. This is why ice floats. As water becomes colder it rises to the top, eventually freezing to the layers of ice that are already there. Insulation of the water beneath is increased as the ice thickens so cooling of the water beneath slows. Many lakes will eventually freeze solid if given enough time. Fortunately, spring thaw arrives long before that happens. As for rivers, a river with a swift enough current will not freeze solid due to the constant motion of the water.

22. Why do lakes and rivers freeze but oceans don't?
-Actually, oceans do freeze, although the high salt levels lowers the freezing point to around 28.4°F (-2°C). The polar ice cap that many of us have been hearing about so much lately is, in fact, frozen ocean. The ocean around Alaska freezes in the winter, with sea ice occasionally extending as far south as 60° to 62° N lattitude. The winter is not cold enough for long enough for more of the ocean to freeze, and with the arrival of spring and summer the warmer temperatures causes this ice shelf to melt. However, the parts of the ocean north of Alaska, Canada, and Russia remains frozen all year long although this ice cap is showing signs of shrinkage due to climate change.

So, I hope this post clears up any misconceptions you all may have had about Alaska. We all like to think we know everything about a specific state or country, but we don't truly know until we do our research! I know these websites sure helped me to understand better about where we'll be living! I cannot wait for our new adventure!


  1. is there a lot of snow where you are?

  2. We'll be living in Anchorage so there is snow, but not as much snow as some of the other cities in Alaska. Some days the high in Anchorage can get up to 45 or 50 so it's not so bad!


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