Popular Science Monthly/Volume 62/December 1902/The Size of Alaska

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ALASKA, as a portion of our national domain, is at this time justly demanding our interested attention. Its marvelous resources and their probable rapid development are already bringing many to its shores, and will undoubtedly attract many more; hence, new facts regarding it, or old facts placed in a new light, must be of general interest. For many reasons, but chiefly because of its distance from the United States and the present difficulties of travel in its interior the size of the territory has been but little understood and probably much underestimated.

We know that its area has been stated by the geographers to be about 600,000 square miles, but unrelated figures, after all, give to

Fig. 1.

the average mind but vague ideas of the extent of territory. When it is said that Alaska has one fifth the area of the whole United States, one begins to have a more intelligent conception of its size, for in a general way the average American readily forms a fairly accurate mental picture of the broad size relations of his country. But so great is the extent of the United States and so difficult is it to judge accurately of the relations of geographical measurements that even this is not a satisfactory comparison. For this reason our practical knowledge would not be much benefited were it stated that the area of Alaska is equal to that of three and one quarter Californias, or ten Iowas, or one hundred and twenty-seven and one half Connecticuts. But if it were possible to take the whole territory of Alaska and its adjoining islands and place them upon the portion of North America occupied by the United States it would be a simple thing to show exactly what the relations of these great possessions to our own country are. Just this, in effect, has been done, as the accompanying illustration shows. The chart was prepared by Mr. Alfred H. Brooks, geologist of the U. S. Geological Survey, in charge of the government work of exploration and geological investigation of the territory, who has drawn upon the map of the United States an outline of Alaska. The scale used in both instances is the same, and the result is 'most interesting. When Point Barrow, the most northerly extremity of Alaska, is placed upon the Canadian border in northern Minnesota, Mt. St. Elias falls near the Ohio River between western Kentucky and Indiana, and the main portion of the territory covers almost the entire area of the Great Plains and Mississippi Valley as far south as Arkansas. The extreme southeasterly portion of the narrow strip of Alaska, upon which Sitka and Juneau are situated, would extend to the Atlantic Ocean at Georgia; the celebrated Nome District would fall in western South Dakota near the Wyoming line, and the most westerly of the Aleutian Island group would lie upon the Pacific coast line near Los Angeles; the intermediate islands touching the Mexican border in Arizona and New Mexico. In other words, the territory of Alaska is sufficient in geographical extent to reach from the Atlantic to the Pacific and from Canada to Mexico. Placed in this position on the United States Alaska would cover, in whole or in part, twenty-three states and territories, and the western third of Lake Superior.