Alaska was the 49th state to join the United States in 1959. About 15,000 years ago, Alaska was settled by people who followed herd animals across the Bering Land Bridge, which was covered during the most recent ice age.
In the 1700s, Russians found Alaska and settled there, trading in sea otter fur. By the 1800s, sea otters had been hunted for their furs until they were almost extinct. Russia agreed to sell Alaska to the United States. US Secretary of State William H. Seward bought the land for $7.2 million. On October 18, 1867, the Alaska Purchase was completed, and the first American flag was raised and flown.
Land of the Midnight Sun
Alaska is also called the Land of the Midnight Sun. The state gets more sunlight in spring and summer than any other state. In the northern areas, such as Barrow, the sun does not set for more than two and a half months (May to August). From November to January it is the opposite; the sun never rises above the horizon.
Fairbanks, which sits almost 200 miles below the Arctic Circle, can get 24 hours of light during the summer months. Ketchikan, which is located in the southern area on the state, gets 17 hours of daylight in June.
- In 1790, a Japanese whaling ship ran aground near the Aleutian Islands. Rats escaped from the ship and landed there, giving it the name of “Rat Island.”
- The capital of Alaska is Juneau.
- Alaska is the largest state in the Union.
- The state’s motto is “North to the Future.”
- There are approximately 5,000 earthquakes here per year.