Photo by Kris Eichler
Even though the Alaska cruise is some way down the track, I’m reading as much as I can find about it, and the research is nearly as much fun as going there.
I was surprised how little I knew about the place … apart from gold, huskies, glaciers and Sarah Palin. I did remember once seeing a very old map, which postulated that Alaska was then thought to be an island. And, I also remembered the Senator from Alaska once threatening to cut the state in half, thereby making Texas the third largest state in the US.
Seriously, it is big enough to do that, and it also contains the northernmost, westernmost and easternmost points of the United States. That’s a good one for the trivia and quiz fans … the Aleutian Islands actually straddle the 180 degree antimeridian … the International Date Line takes an obliging jink westwards at this point, to avoid making things too complicated date-wise,
Now, Russia is just a loud shout across the strait, and it was the Russians who first came here in the 17th Century; the first settlement was by an expedition led by Vitus Bering a few years later. The Spanish also took an interest, which accounts for Spanish-sounding place names such as Valdez.
James Cook passed this way on his third voyage, which produced the first accurate mapping of the area, although his attempt to negotiate the North West Passage proved abortive. He was, however, forbidden to land, and certainly not to plant any flags, and Hereby Take Possession of the Territory in the Name of King George!
Russia sold it to the US for $7.2 million … that’s about 2c. an acre … in 1867, and they’ve probably been kicking themselves ever since. But, it only had the status of a US Territory; it didn’t become the 49th State till 1959. The border with Canada seems mainly to have been established by a ‘Neddy in an Office Who Likes Straight Lines’. Except for a long finger of land down the western coast, known as the Panhandle or the Inside Passage. That’s where we’ll be cruising.
Naturally, I don’t have any photos to show of this trip yet, so grateful thanks to my friend Kris Eichler, who did a similar trip and was kind enough to let me use some of her photos.