Alaska: the Last Frontier

It’s that time of year again where the right side productions take its global syndicated TV show on the road to capture some of the most fascinating and most talked about places on earth.  Last year as you may recall we were in Egypt and as of the writing of this column we’re in Anchorage Alaska.  Alaska is a country in and of itself.  

To give perspective it is larger than California and Texas combined!  Nearly half of its population is in Anchorage.  In terms of density if you took the population density of Alaska and placed it in New York you would have about 16 people in Manhattan!  Also, while we’re here, during the summer there are only several hours of night, around 4 and rather than the sun being straight overhead at noon and moving in a more or less straight line it moves in a path more similar to a circle through the sky.  The capital here is not even accessible by road, and is closer to Canada than the most populated location here: Anchorage.

In a State this big — yes, this giant place that is about a third the size of the rest of the US is a state, meaning no passport is required to get here — much transpires.  Issues span from the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act, to a bridge to nowhere and accusations of corruption to rumors a desire to separate from the United States.  Yet not everything in this State, that only received its statehood in 1959, is political.  Alaska has one of the highest suicide rates in the nation, despite the Permanent Fund that gives a payout to Alaskans of around $1000 per year.  The aurora borealis is visible here, and if you like salmon, you won’t find them any fresher.  In terms of travel, though, there are no interstates, nor could there be, as Alaska doesn’t connect to any other state.

The populace of Alaska contains people that are hard to find anywhere else, 19 percent is Alaska Native or Native American.  While the majority here is 74% non-Hispanic Caucasian, this state has the highest percentage of Native Americans in the country.

For many people Alaska is just the land mass in the corner of the screen, next to Hawaii, on the television when the United States map is shown.  However, this image can be very misleading as it is by far the largest state in the union even though it has a population lower than the smallest, Rhode Island.  It is easy to just think of Alaska as the place over there and perhaps that is why there are rumors that there is sentiment in the State of leaving the union.  However, if this sentiment is felt, there seems to be a desire to hide it from people from out of state.

Many of Alaska’s highly touted past and present political elected officials are under a storm cloud of corruption and it remains to be seen where this will end.  Senators Ted Stevens and Lisa Murkowski recently supported the sweeping ethics and accountability bill that passed overwhelmingly in the Senate.  This is particularly sensitive to these lawmakers given that they have their own challenges with FBI and ethic probes in the state.  In his continued defiance of President Bush, Congressman Don Young voted against giving this administration expanded authority to eavesdrop on foreign terrorists without court warrants.  While here we plan to cover these stories closer and bring a clearer and fairer accounting on how Alaskans feel about these issues and whether their representatives are being unfairly singled out.

Alaska’s high suicide rate is sometimes attributed to the lengthy dark period in the winter.  Because of the 18 hour sunlight during the summer and vice versa to darkness during the winter, it has been theorized that people are more likely to enter a state of depression.  Additionally alcohol abuse throughout much of the state is seen as a contributing factor to the suicides and fetal alcohol syndrome, which causes defects in children born to women who drink throughout the pregnancy. 

The inaccessibility by car of many of the villages and towns in Alaska causes people to seek alternative methods of transportation, either by plane or boat, because of the distance.  In Alaska, small private planes, that are propeller airplanes, not jets, are treated like cars, so sometimes people don’t go through all the necessary precautions, which is one of the reasons for the high rate of aerial accidents.  The other reason is the weather.  Due to the sparse positioning of towns and cities large patches of territory lack up-to-date weather patterns, so a pilot who isn’t aware of how to detect weather patterns could easily fly from a clear sky straight into a thunderstorm in another part of the state.

Despite all the differences present in this state it is good to remember that in the end Alaska is still a state, the 49th state.  As previously mentioned, there is no need for a passport to get here, and though it is the better part of a day to get here Alaskans still vote and contribute to the nation.  So the next time you think of travel, think of this state with high summer temperatures, up to 100 degrees and free internet in the lobbies of hotels.  You can get a direct flight from Washington National Airport via Seattle.  Whether you want civilization or hunting in the wilderness, you can find it and everything in between in Alaska.  Come see the last Frontier!


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