National Geographic : 1959 Jul
The National Geographic Magazine expense of the now second largest State. A new definition of "claustrophobia" emerged: "How an Alaskan feels in the heart of Texas." Alaskans vied with Texans in tall tales. A sample: "When the Air Force first established Ladd Field near Fairbanks, the crew rushed out to service a transient plane. They pumped 50 gallons of gas into it before realizing that it was an Alaskan mosquito." Fiction and fantasy aside, the 49th is a State of superlatives. It is more than twice as large as Texas; 21 smaller States would fit within it. Its seacoast is longer than that of all the other States combined. (See the Atlas Map, State of Alaska, distributed to members with this issue of their magazine.) It is the only State that juts into the Eastern Hemisphere, and extends above the Arctic Circle. Alaska's outermost Aleutian island, Attu, lies as far west as New Zealand. On Little Diomede Island the United States now has a State border within view of Soviet Russia, 22 miles away. It includes four time zones, and would include a fifth, except that one time-zone boundary and the international Egg-crate ballot box at Anchorage records votes in the August 26, 1958, referendum. Five out of six Alaskans voted for statehood. date line are deliberately bent to avoid it. Nor does Alaska lack record vertical dimen sion. Its Mount McKinley, 20,320 feet in height, is the North American Continent's loftiest peak (page 80). Indians call it Denali -the Great One. Eleven other Alaskan mountains soar higher than California's Mount Whitney, previously the Nation's summit. Moreover, Alaskans claim that their highest mountains look taller than any other peaks on earth, since they rise from near sea level. I have often seen Mount McKinley on a clear day all the way from Anchorage and Fair banks, 130 and 160 miles away. Park Shelters Alaska Wildlife This sounds as if I am implying that Alaska's scenery is superb, and so I am. A galaxy of nature lovers from John Muir on have agreed. To preserve the scenery and the State's fantastic abundance of wildlife, the Federal Government has established here a national park and three national monuments. Mount McKinley National Park alone spreads over nearly two million acres. Often I have wandered its spruce-flanked trails, relishing its grandeur and enjoying glimpses of its animal life. Grizzly bear, moose, and caribou thrive here, as well as Dall sheep, wolf, wolverine, coyote, fox, and lynx. Glacier Bay National Monument, in south eastern Alaska, is an enormous outdoor mu seum of glaciers-some advancing, others re ceding. They may be observed from the safety and comfort of a boat. In 1912 an incredible volcanic explosion created the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. Largely through the efforts of the National Geographic Society, this land of steaming fumaroles and ponderous glaciers was set aside as Katmai National Monument. Its expanse of 2,697,590 acres makes it the largest unit in the National Park System. Sitka National Monument, 54 acres, marks the site where the Tlingit Indians finally suc cumbed to Russian invaders in 1804. Appro priately, it preserves some of the finest ex amples of Indian totem pole carvings. My first visit to Alaska began with a voyage up the unique Inside Passage-a thousand miles of sheltered waterway from Puget Sound to Skagway. This was in May, 1936, when I was director of the Division of Territories and Island Possessions. And in those days no airline or highway yet linked the Terri tory with the 48 States.