Before I moved to Alaska to join Ocean Conservancy’s Arctic team, I envisioned a state with plentiful glaciers, bears, fish and mountains. After calling Alaska home for three years, I can say I’ve learned so much more about the people, the land, and of course, the oceans of our nations’ only Arctic state!
Unsurprisingly, some of the most interesting facts about Alaska relate to its size. Not only is Alaska the largest state in the United States, but it’s also bigger than Texas, California and Montana combined. Alaska also has more than 34,000 miles of coastline, more than the other 49 states combined. The state even boasts the northernmost, westernmost and easternmost points in the U.S. (If you find yourself wondering about that easternmost point, it’s because the Aleutian Islands stretch into the eastern hemisphere). AND it is the only state that borders two oceans—both the Pacific and the Arctic.
Alaska encompasses 17 of the 20 highest peaks in the U.S., is home to more than half of the world’s glaciers and contains America’s largest national forest, the Tongass. Eight of the ten largest islands in the U.S. are in Alaska.
Known for its wildlife, Alaska provides habitat for 98 percent of all brown bears in the U.S. and 32 different carnivores—more than any other state. The majority of U.S. crab, halibut and salmon come from Alaskan waters. More than 20 million seabirds breed in the Bering Sea each year. Alaskan waters even have coral reefs!
While Alaska and its waters host abundant wildlife, Alaska is the least populated state per capita and has just over 700,000 people. It is home to a rich indigenous culture, including 229 Federally Recognized Tribes and 20 indigenous languages. Alaskan Natives are approximately 20% of the State’s population. Many of Alaska’s indigenous people’s live a subsistence way of life, relying on Alaska’s natural resources and utilizing traditional knowledge passed down through many generations.
While I could spend days writing about the amazing people, wildlife, land and ocean of this state, I will send you off with a few more interesting facts:
- Alaska’s capital city, Juneau, is the only U.S. capital that is not accessible by road. It can only be reached by plane or boat.
- Anchorage, the state’s biggest city, is home to the world’s largest and busiest seaplane hub.
- 100% of the world’s spectacled eiders overwinter in a polynya (an open water area surrounded by sea ice) south of St. Lawrence Island.
- The Alaska flag was designed by 13-year-old Benny Benson.
- Alaska is only one of four states in the U.S. to officially celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead of Columbus Day.
- The Pribilof Islands are home to nearly one million northern fur seals, roughly 75 percent their population worldwide.
I hope you all have the opportunity to go visit the vast, marvelous state of Alaska in your lifetime.