Alaska fun facts
Animals and Plants
There are 14 species of whales in Alaskan waters: Orca, Sperm, Beluga, Blue, Bowhead, Northern, Right, Finback, Humpback, Sei, Minke, Gray, Pilot, and Narwahl.
A female whale is called a ‘cow’.
The Orca is the swiftest of the whales.
Orcas are also known as “Wolves of the Sea.”
Approximately 1.25 million Pacific Fur Seals return to the Pribilof Islands each year.
Polar Bears are actually considered a marine mammal and therefore are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
Salmon will travel up to 1,900 miles (3,040 km) on the Yukon River to spawn.
Alaska has five species of salmon; King, Coho, Sockeye, Chum, and Pink.
The Pink Salmon is the smallest of the Pacific salmon.
The Chum Salmon is found in California, Canada, Russia, Japan, and Alaska.
The Chum/Calico Salmon has the widest range of all Pacific Salmon.
A female salmon is called a ‘hen’.
The Tlingit dried hooligans (a small, oily fish), inserted a twisted spruce bark wick and used them as candles.
The Pacific Halibut is the most sought-after bottom dwelling fish in Alaska.
A halibut has both eyes on the same side if its head.
The largest recorded Pacific halibut caught with sport gear weighed 495 pounds (225 kg).
Large halibut in excess of 300 pounds (140 kg) are known as ‘barndoor halibut’.
‘Chicken’ is a term halibut fishermen use for a small halibut.
Great White Sharks have been found in Southeast Alaskan waters.
The King Crab can have a leg span of up to 6 feet (2 meters).
Three species of salamander, two species of frog, and one specie of toad are found in Alaska.
The wood frog, Rana sylvatica, can be found living in Alaska north of the Arctic Circle.
Most amphibians native to Alaska are found mainly in the relatively warm southeast; the wood frog is the only amphibian found throughout Alaska.
An adult bull moose weighs between 1,200 and 1,400 pounds (550 and 640 kg) and can stand 7 feet (about 2 meters) tall at the shoulders.
The spread of a bull moose’s antlers can exceed six feet (2 meters).
Moose can trot at about 35 miles per hour (56 km per hour).
During the winter season, there may be as many as 1,000 moose in the Anchorage bowl.
The average number of moose killed in Anchorage as a result of being hit by a vehicle is 156 per year.
The moose is the largest member of the deer family.
A moose’s favorite food is willow and dwarf birch.
Unlike other members of the deer family, both male and female caribou grow antlers.
A Reindeer is a domesticated Caribou.
Most of the powder made from clipped antlers of Alaska’s domestic reindeer is shipped to the Far East, where it is believed to be an aphrodisiac.
Alaskan musk-ox were wiped out by hunters in 1865. They have since been reintroduced and their numbers are increasing.
Despite the name, Musk Ox are not a type of ox, but are more closely related to sheep and goats.
The Glacier Bear is a smokey-blue or blue-grey bear found in the Yakutat Area.
Three types of bear are found in Alaska: Polar Bear, Grizzly Bear, and Black Bear.
The Grizzly Bear is the world’s largest land-dwelling omnivore, weighing up to 1,000 pounds (454 kg) or more. A brown bear cub weighs only 8 to 10 ounces (0.3 kg).
The Grizzly bear population of Kodiak Island is estimated at over 3,000 bears.
The Alaskan wolf doesn’t deserve its reputation as a man-killer. A single person can scare an entire pack away from a kill without a fight.
The Lynx is the only cat native to Alaska.
The wolverine has a reputation of being so ferocious that it can harass and run off a Grizzly Bear.
Arctic mammals have developed shorter extremities to protect them from the elements.
The Arctic Tern is known to travel as far away as Antarctica each year.
Seagulls have been known to number in the millions in Alaskan waters.
Young Bald Eagles leave the nest in 10 to 12 weeks.
Admiralty Island has an average of two eagle nests per square mile.
Both male and female mosquitoes eat plant sugar. The only reason the female sucks blood is because she uses the proteins for egg production.
At least 25 species of mosquito are found in Alaska. There may be as many as 40 species.
Fireweed is unusual that it blooms from the bottom up. When the top blooms, it signals the end of summer.
There are approximately 400 types of flowering plants in Denali National Park.
More than 500 species of mushroom grow in Alaska.
The diamond shaped patterns in diamond willow are the result of a parasitic fungus.
Just a few rose hips (the fruit of the wild rose) provide as much vitamin C as a medium-sized orange.
Over 500 species of mushroom grow in Alaska.
Geographically, Alaska has five time zones. However, only two times zones are used: Yukon Standard Time and Bering Sea Time.
Alaska has about 365 million acres of land. Of that, only about 160,000 acres has been cleared, built on, or otherwise directly affected by people.
On the tundra, houses have to be built on stilts because the ground is too soft.
Hyder, Alaska on the border of British Columbia is the only Alaskan community that does not have the Alaskan area code. It uses 250, the Canadian exchange.
Ketchikan has the world’s largest collection of totem poles.
Kodiak Island is Alaska’s largest island.
The first permanent colony of the Russian American Fur Compay was Three Saints Bay, Kodiak Island in 1738.
Alaska’s first Russian Orthodox church was located on Kodiak Island.
Kodiak is the oldest European settlement in Alaska.
Anchorage’s original name was Ship Creek.
Anchorage’s Fur Rendezvous is known as the ‘Mardi Gras of the North’.
In the Matanuska Valley cabbages grow up to 70 pounds (32 kg).
Seward’s July 4 Mt. Marathon race (a race up and down 3,022 foot (921 m) Mt. Marathon) started in 1909 as a bet between two sourdoughs.
Katmai National Monument is twice the size of Delaware.
Fairbanks’ original name was Barnett’s Cache.
The City of Fairbanks celebrates the longest day of the year with a baseball game played through midnight, using only the light of the midnight sun.
Residents of Fairbanks can see the Northern Lights an average of 240 nights per year.
The first television broadcast in Bethel took place in 1972.
The northwestern town of Nome got it’s name from a misinterpretation of ‘? name’. In the 1850’s the British had written ‘? name’ on a point on the map. The ‘?’ was taken as a ‘C’ for ‘Cape’, and the ‘a’ was read as an ‘o’.
Around 1900, the population of Nome was approximately 30,000. Twenty years later, it dropped to only about 850.
Barrow is the northernmost city on the North American continent.
At Point Barrow, the summer sun does not set for 3 months.
When the sun sets in Barrow, it is 2 months before it rises again.
Barrow is the largest Iñupiat community in the world.
Alaska law prohibits the use of billboards along Alaskan highways.
Approximately 70% of the roads in Alaska are unpaved.
As of December 2007, the estimated centerline mileage of Alaska’s public road systems was 14,441 miles (23,106 km).
Only about 1/3 of Alaska is served by highways.
Alaska has approximately 700 recorded landing areas, including 121 seaplane bases and 33 heliports.
Approximately 1,000 of Alaska’s 1,800 named islands are in the Southeast.
There are approximately 3,000,000 lakes in Alaska.
There are approximately 5,000 glaciers in Alaska.
There are approximately 3,000 rivers in Alaska.
Nearly half of Alaska is classified as wetlands.
Alaska spans about 1,400 miles from north to south.
Alaska has about 34,000 miles (54,400 km) of shoreline.
Alaska is over twice the size of Texas.
Geologically, glacial ice is classified as rock.
Approximately 3/4 of all the fresh water in Alaska is in the form of glacial ice.
Glaciers weigh so much they can depress the ground up to 300 feet (91 meters).
There are over 100 glaciers in the Wrangell-St. Elias National Monument.
Glaciers appear blue because the ice aborbs all of the colors of the spectrum except for blue which is reflected.
75% to 80% of an iceberg is under water.
About 1/3 of Alaska is covered with permafrost.
At about 100 miles (161 kilometers) long, Bering Glacier is the longest glacier in Alaska.
The Yukon River is almost 2,000 miles (3,200 km) long.
The Yukon River is frozen for 7 to 8 months of the year.
Some of the world’s highest tides (up to 36 feet / 11 meters) are found in Cook Inlet near Anchorage.
At 20,320 feet (6,200 meters), Denali (Mt. McKinley) is the tallest peak on the North American continent.
On a clear day, Denali can be seen from both Anchorage and Fairbanks.
The Alaska Range and Brooks Range are the two largest mountain ranges in Alaska.
The Brooks Range separates Alaska’s Arctic region from the Interior.
The Aleutian Island chain is comprised of more than 200 islands.
Alaska has 19 mountain peaks over 14,000 feet (4,267 meters).
The most seismically active part of Alaska is the Aleutian Islands arc.
Alaska has 124 identified geothermal areas that include hot springs, fumaroles, and geothermal wells.
The average annual precipitation in Ketchikan is 150 inches (3.8 meters).
The highest monthly preciptiation ever recorded in Alaska was 71 (1.8 meters) inches at MacLeod Harbor in 1970.
Popular southeast Alaskan saying: “If you can’t see the mountains, it’s raining. If you can see the mountains, it’s going to rain”.
The Arctic 24 hour summer sunshine has made sunflowers grow as large as 10 feet tall.
There’s only between 80 and 120 days in Alaska’s short growing season.
Despite its height, Denali is relatively easy to climb. It’s not the technical aspects that deters people, it’s the harsh weather.
The port in Nome is frozen 8 to 10 months of the year.
People and Culture
Alaska has four indigenous ethnic groups–Tlingit, Athabascan, Eskimo, and Aleut.
There are over a dozen languages native to Alaska; Han, Haida, Eyak, Tanana, Tlingit, Dena’ina, Ahtna, Ingalik, Holikachuk, Tsimshian, Koyukon, Upper Kuskokwim, Upper Tanana, Kutchin, Aleut, Yup’ik, Central Yup’ik, Siberian Yupik, and Inupiaq.
Contrary to popular belief, none of the Alaskan Eskimos built and lived in igloos.
The first humans are believed to have come to Alaska 30,000 to 40,000 years ago.
The oldest carbon-dated sign of occupancy in Alaska was dated at 30,000 years old.
The first Europeans to discover Alaska were Vitus Bering and Aleksei Chirikov on July 15, 1741. The Russian ruler Peter the Great had ordered them to find the passage from the Arctic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean.
The Russian Cherikof party that first explored Alaska disappeared. What happened to them remains a mystery.
The early Russians and Aleuts were drawn to the Bering Sea islands by Northern Fur Seals.
The most commonly occurring bird in Native Alaskan stories is the Raven.
The Haida culture is represented by the Raven and Eagle.
The Tsimshian culture is represented by four animals–Eagle, Wolf, Raven, and Bear.
The Metlakatla Indian Community is the only Alaskan community that can legally use a fish trap.
‘Cossack’ is derived from the Russian word ‘kazak’ which means ‘adventurer’.
‘Denali’ is an Aleut word for ‘Great Mountain’.
‘Kwigpak’ (literally, ‘Big River’) is the Yup’ik name for the Yukon River.
Tlingit Indians in the Southeast have stories of a monster that lives in Lituya Bay.
The Tlingits are famous for their totem poles describing a family’s real and mythical history.
According to Native custom, Tlingit Indians cremate their dead.
The Tlingits regularly traded with with other Native cultures in Alaska.
Abraham Lincoln was the first white man to be carved onto a totem pole.
The most popular vacation spot for Alaskans is Hawai’i.
Japan is Alaska’s largest trading partner.
Approximately 1 in 66 Alaskans is an active pilot.
As of December 2007, Alaska had nearly 70,000 registered boats.
About 98% of the Sailor Boy label hardtack (also knows as pilot bread) made by Interbake Foods of Richmond, Virginia is consumed by Alaskans.
More than 85% of the silver recovered in Alaska was a by-product of copper mining.
The “Nome Wonder” was a 7-inch (18cm) gold nugget discovered in 1901.
Gravel, after being mined and sold, has been more valuable than gold.
The molybdenum deposit near Ketchikan is one of the world’s largest.
Parts of the Alaska pipeline are refrigerated to prevent it from melting the permafrost.
The Alaska pipeline crosses three mountain ranges–Brooks, Alaska, and Chugach.
The first airplace flew to Alaska in 1913.
There is believed to be 15 million to 18 million acres of arable land in Alaska. However, only about 900,000 acres are currently considered farm land.
Approximately 50,000 square miles (80,465 square km) were affected by the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake.
The Good Friday Earthquake created a tsunami that dried up Kodiak’s 50 foot (15 meter) deep harbour and washed boats 1/4 mile (2/5 km) inland.
Alaska’s Denali fault system is one of the longest strike-slip fault systems in the world, rivaling in size California’s famed San Andreas strike-slip fault system.
On average, Alaska experiences 1,000 earthquakes a year that measure 3.5 or higher on the Richter scale.
Average number of Alaskan earthquakes:
Due to unstable ground and damage caused by the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake, the entire town of Valdez had to be moved.
Alaska’s leading cause of wildfires is lightning.
June thunderstorms cause as many as 3,000 lightning strikes per day in Alaska’s interior.