Alaska Day

October 18

“Some return from Alaska. Not all die there. They return blind and rheumatic for the rest of their lives, with hands useless, shriveled as if in a gesture of perpetual anguish. Hands that long hours with the fishnets went numb from cold and chests that, worn-out from coughing lost all strength… Adventures! Fortunes! All a lie! Alaska is the hell that extinguishes faith and quickens curses to the lips.”

Alfonso Fabila, “The Horrible Hell of Alaska,” 1929

Well things have gotten a little better since Alfonso wrote his memoir, and today the state is home to over 700,000 Americans. October 18 is Alaska Day, celebrating the day in 1867 that Russia transfered 1.7 million square kilometers to the United States.

Signing of Treaty of Cessation of Russian Alaska to U.S.
Signing of Treaty of Cessation of Russian Alaska to US

Recently my optometrist moved there. Now he’s an optical Aleutian. (Rim shot)

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Alaska is the largest state.

How big is it?

Alaska is so big, if it were a country, it would be the 18th largest in the world.

It’s bigger than France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Italy, Switzerland, Portugal, Austria, and Greece combined.

According the Alaska Science Forum, Alaska has more coastline than all other states combined, and its lake areas alone are larger than the Hawaiian Islands.

17 of the 20 highest mountains in the United States are in Alaska.

Its former governor could see Russia from her house. (This has been disputed.)

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Secretary of State William Seward purchased Alaska from Russia in 1867 for 2 cents an acre. The deal, known as “Seward’s Folly”, paid for itself within 30 years. In 1896, gold was discovered near the Yukon, thus beginning the great Klondike Gold Rush.

After World War II, Seward was further vindicated when Alaska became one of the U.S.’s most prized possessions in terms of strategic defense. At its western-most point, Alaska is only 55 miles from Eastern Siberia.

These days residents of the lower 48 cherish Alaska for its wildlife and environmental diversity, as well for its large reserves of untapped oil. Because of this dichotomy, the state is the frontline in the battle between environmental groups and proponents of cost-efficient energy.

Alaska comes from an Aleut word meaning “the mainland.” The state’s motto is “North To the Future!”

One Reply to “Alaska Day”

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