1. The state’s nickname is “The Last Frontier,” which you may have known. I’ll bet you didn’t know that the motto is “North to the Future,” and the state flower is the forget-me-not. You knew, though, that the state dog was the Alaskan Malamute, right?
2. Alaska is the largest US state by area: 2,261 miles wide and 1,420 miles long (more than twice the size of Texas), but it has the lowest population density (1.26 people per square mile). Almost half the population lives in the Anchorage metropolitan area.
3. Oddly, it’s the northernmost, westernmost, and easternmost state (a few of the Aleutian Islands extend into the Eastern hemisphere. An island further north is only six miles from a Russian island.). However, the highest and lowest temperatures in Alaska occur near Fairbanks. Summer temperatures there range from over 90F in the summer to below -60F in the winter, and sunlit hours range from 4 hours in late December to 21.5 hours in late June.
4. The coastline is longer than the coastlines of all the other states combined; including islands, Alaska has more than 33,000 miles of shoreline. The word Alaska is derived from an Native idiom (either Aleut or Urrangam) meaning “object to which the action of the sea is directed.” From the same root, another name, “Alyeska,” means “great land.”
5. The discovery of oil in Prudhoe Bay in 1968 and the 1977 completion of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline led to an oil boom in the state. (In Fairbanks, we heard repeated references to “Pipeline days” when things were apparently quite lively.)
6. According to the 2010 census, the state race and ethnicity makeup is quite diverse (64% non-Hispanic white, 15% American Indian and Alaskan Native, 7% two or more races, 6% Latino or Hispanic, 5% Asian, 3% Black, 1% Hawaiian and other Pacific Islanders, 2% other. As of 2011, around 51% of the Alaskan population under 1 year old had two non-white parents.