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"Alaska" -- the word itself is a Russian version of an Aleutian word, "Alakahak," that means great lands.  Alaska fits this description as its shear size dwarfs all of the other states in the US.  Encompassing over 570,373 square miles, Alaska would cover over twice the land mass of Texas.  Included within its borders are 17 of the nation's 20 highest mountain peaks, the tallest of these being Mt.McKinley that towers over the landscape at 20,320ft.  Containing 34,000 river miles, 6,640 miles of coastline, 15 national parks, preserves, and monuments, Alaska is truly one of the great wilderness treasures of North America.

 

The Alaskan land is still very much "under construction".  Five percent of the state is covered by glaciers, and each year it has around 5,000 recorded earthquakes -- including ~1,000 that measure 3.5 or greater on the Richter scale.  Of the ten strongest earthquakes ever recorded in the world, three have been in Alaska.  The strongest one occurred on March 27, 1964, when a magnitude 9.2 hit central Alaska.  The quake was so large, tide gauges as far away as Cuba and Puerto Rico recorded sea level oscillations. 

 

In 1867, the Alaskan land was purchased from Russia following the end of the Civil War for a price of $7,200,000 (less than 2 cents per acre).  President Andrew Johnson's Secretary of State, William H. Seward, negotiated the sale with the Russians before he was actually authorized to decide a final amount.  Initially, he was only allowed $5 million, but then asked the State Department for $7 million before ending up with the final price.  At the time, most Americans saw this as a pure waste of money, and the deal became known as "Seward's Folly".  Nearly a century later, on January 3rd, 1959, Alaska became the nation's 49th state.  Quite a bargain in my estimation.

 

Alaska is one of my favorite places to visit based upon the raw magnitude of the landscape and infinite photo opportunities.  The accessible wilderness and wildlife viewing opportunities in Alaska are unmatched.  Viewing opportunities literally run the range of the imagination - from whales to grizzly bears - even in the same day.  The land, the wildlife, the people, the beauty, all make Alaska a Wonder of Creation.

 

"To the lover of pure wilderness, Alaska is one of the most wonderful countries of the world" --  John Muir

 

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