7 Things You Didn’t Know About Alaska
Considering that Alaska is over 600,000 square miles, it makes sense that it is the state with the most inland water, the most glaciers and the lowest population per capita in the US. However, there are many interesting facts you may find surprising. Here are just a few of them.
- Aurora borealis (northern lights) can be seen an average of 243 days a year in Fairbanks.
The location of Fairbanks makes it a fantastic place to see northern lights. According to explorefairbanks.com if you stay 3 nights in Fairbanks, you have an 80% chance of seeing the lights. Fairbanks is within the auroral oval, a ring-shaped region around the North Pole where there is a terrific balance of occurrence, frequency and activity. The continental weather in Fairbanks means it has more clear nights then coastal cities. Aurora borealis occurs about 60 or 70 miles above the earth’s surface —about 10 times higher than a jet aircraft flies — and can extend hundreds of miles into space. The most common color displayed is a brilliant yellow-green, but the aurora borealis can also produce red, blue and purple patterns.
- At their closest points, Alaska and Russia are less than 3 miles apart.
The closest distance between mainland Alaska and mainland Russia is 55 miles. However, there are two islands in the Bering Strait, Big Diomede (owned by Russia) and Little Diomede (owned by the US) that are only 2.5 miles apart. This stretch of water actually freezes over in the winter, so technically you can walk from Alaska to Russia.
- Giant vegetables are common.
Because of the long summer days, particularly in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, vegetables can grow to become huge. These monsters are a popular attraction at the Alaska State Fair held in Palmer every year. Many national and world records have been recorded here for enormous veggies, including a three-foot-long bean, a 35-pound broccoli and a 138-pound cabbage.
The Trans Alaska Pipeline System starts in Prudhoe Bay and continues 800 miles Valdez, the northernmost ice-free point in America. 420 miles of the 800-mile-long pipeline is elevated on 78,000 vertical support members due to permafrost. The first oil moved through the pipeline on June 20, 1977.
- Alaska doesn’t have poison ivy, poison oak or poisonous snakes
Poisons ivy and poison oak are found in all other states except Alaska. Alaska does have cow parsnip. The bruised leaves of this large perennial can leave a chemical on the skin that makes it very sensitive to the sun. Alaska also has no native poisonous snakes. The common garter snake is the only species of snake to be found in Alaska.
They also set their watches to Pacific Standard Time (not Alaska Standard Time), use Stewart’s area code and send their children to Canadian schools. Even though Hyder (pop. 65) has mainland road access, the town is so isolated from the rest of Alaska its 72 residents are almost totally dependent on larger Stewart (pop. 700), just across the Canadian border.
- The largest salmon ever caught was at the Kenai River.
The king salmon weighed in at 97.5 pounds and was 58 1/4-inches long and some say when it was first pulled out of the water it could have weighed 100 pounds. Soldotna resident Les Anderson caught the fish in 1985 in the lower Kenai River. Today, the mount of Anderson’s record catch is on display at the Soldotna Visitors Association building.