Facts and Figures
Area, 656,424 sq mi (1,700,135 sq km), including 86,051 sq mi (222,871 sq km) of water surface. Pop. (2000) 628,932, a 14% increase since the 1990 census. Capital, Juneau. Largest city, Anchorage. Statehood, Jan. 3, 1959 (49th state). Highest pt., Mt. McKinley, 20,320 ft (6,198 m); lowest pt., sea level. Motto, North to the Future. State bird, willow ptarmigan. State flower, forget-me-not. State tree, Sitka spruce. Abbr., AK 2
Land and People
Nearly one fifth the size of the rest of the United States, Alaska is, at the tip of the Seward Peninsula in the northwest, only a few miles from the Russian Far East; the two are separated by the narrow Bering Strait. The Seward Peninsula, chiefly tundra covered, is sparsely inhabited. The Bering Strait widens in the north to the Chukchi Sea, which slices into Alaska with Kotzebue Sound; in the south the strait widens to the Bering Sea, which cuts into Alaska with Norton Sound and Bristol Bay. 3
Toward the south the state again extends toward Russia in the Alaska Peninsula and the Aleutian Islands, reaching a total of 1,200 mi (1,931 km) toward the Komandorski Islands; together they divide the Bering Sea from the Pacific. The Aleutian Range, which is the spine of the Alaska Peninsula, is continued in the grass-covered, treeless Aleutian Islands; the climate there is unremittingly harsh—foggy, damp, and cold in the winter and subject to violent winds (williwaws). Once traversed by Russian fur traders hunting sea otters, the Aleutians are now chiefly of strategic importance. They contain several active volcanoes. 4
The southern coast of Alaska is deeply indented by two inlets of the wide Gulf of Alaska, Cook Inlet and Prince William Sound; the Kenai Peninsula between them extends southwest toward Kodiak Island. The narrow Panhandle dips southeast along the coast from the Gulf of Alaska, cutting into British Columbia. It consists of the offshore islands of the Alexander Archipelago and the...