- Alaska in the past 5. Winter sporting activities
- Hopes seldom come true 6. The deal of the century
- Close neighbours 7. Back to nature
- A mistaken opinion 8. Popular tourist routes
A. Alaska and Russia are less than 3 miles apart at their closest point in the Bering Strait. In winter, it is possible to walk across the ice from one country to the other. Alaskan and Russian natives on either side of the Bering Strait carry on active border trade and visit each other. Nowadays the University of Alaska has more Russian students than any other university in the United States.
B. The name of the largest American state comes from the Aleut language for ‘great land’. Native American people — Inuits, Yupik Inuits and Aleuts — have lived in Alaska for thousands of years. Life in Alaska has always been difficult, but they learned to adapt to the harsh climate. They lived by hunting seals, whales and bears and by fishing. They used sledge pulled by dogs to travel over the snow-covered land, and lived in igloos — houses made of snow.
C. The territory of Alaska was purchased from the Russians for $7.2 million (very cheaply). Alaska was considered to be a frozen wasteland and nobody could imagine that it would turn out to be one of the United States’ richest resources for gold and oil. For many years the Americans called the buying of Alaska ‘Seward’s Folly’, after Secretary of State William H. Seward, who arranged the purchase in 1867.
D. Most tourists expect to find the Alaskans still living in igloos and leading an isolated life on the snowy plain. To their surprise, the Alaskans’ daily life does not differ much from life in the central parts of the country. Most Alaskans live in modern homes, drive cars, watch TV, and shop in modern stores. Alaska’s communities have restaurants, theatres, museums, and modern health care facilities. The real life in Alaska is much less exotic than it is described in books and films.
E. The discovery of gold in 1896 started a huge Gold Rush that brought thousands of people to Alaska. All the adventurers wanted to make a fortune, but many died of cold and hunger on their way to the gold-field. And very few of those who survived managed to find the gold. The famous writer Jack London tried his chance in Alaska too, and many of his books were influenced by his personal experience.
F. The small Alaskan town of Gustavus is an interesting community. The town’s 400 citizens are a mix of professional people — doctors, lawyers, former government workers and artists. For various reasons they decided to drop out of the stressful city life and live on their own in the middle of the woods. Electricity only arrived in the early 1980s and in some homes they still get water from a pump and make a fire to heat water to wash in.
G. Iditarod, one of Alaska’s most famous events, takes place in early March. It is the 1,100-mile sled dog race from Anchorage, the capital of Alaska, to Nome, a city on the coast of the Bering Sea. The race is very popular and the winners and their teams of dogs become local celebrities. Downhill and cross-country skiing as well as skijoring (when skiers are pulled by one or two dogs) are very popular in Alaska too.