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Discovering the Real Alaska

Aug 13, 2008
With Alaska becoming such a popular vacation destination for travelers around the world, its history and society has become an increasingly interesting subject as well. There are many misconceptions about Alaska as far as its terrain, weather, and citizens are concerned. In reality, it is a somewhat untouched area of the world that is rich in beauty and culture.

Alaska is a country of extremes, of old and new, warm and cold, and ice and water. Only in somewhere like Alaska will ancient Eskimo and Indian cultures be mixed with modern practices of fishing and gold mining. The same skin boats are used from over a thousand years ago-except they are now fitted with the latest outboard motor. The beauty of Alaska has reached the ears of citizens across the globe. Because of this growing popularity, the upscale world cruise industry has began to include Alaska among its ports of call in the past couple of decades.

The vast area of Alaska equals about 20% of the size of the United States, or 586,000 square miles. One of the misconceptions about Alaska is that there is only one kind of climate: cold. In reality, there is almost every conceivable kind of climate and terrain imaginable.

Between southeastern Alaska and the most northern part of the Arctic slope there are breathtaking snow covered mountains, enchanting forests, and expansive, wide-open prairies. The Yukon River is the third largest on the North American continent, only after the Mississippi and the Mackenzie. Although there are no great lakes, there are a number of small ones.

A typical presumption about Alaska, as mentioned previously, is its extreme weather. The general public assumes there is no such thing as summer and that there is only ice covering the land. In actuality, 75% of Alaska is well below the Arctic Circle and, even the lowest recorded winter temperature is still above Montana, Wyoming, and North Dakota's. In central Alaska, the highs in the summertime are comparable to those of New York City, which is actually quite hot. Passengers on five star world cruises are constantly shocked by the temperate climates in Alaska that they experience at Alaska's various ports and at sea.

The United States Weather Bureau has records of temperatures in Alaska reaching 100 F in the shade at Fort Yukon, 99 at Fairbanks, and equivalent highs for other areas. The highest recorded temperature in the beach areas of Florida does not currently surpass 96. These statistics prove that Alaska is not the frigid, igloo-ridden part of the United States that many assume it is.

Ironically, many a traveler who has been to both tropical areas of the globe as well as the Arctic complain more about the heat in the Arctic than from the cold in the tropics. This may be due to the humidity found in hot areas of the Arctic-in the summer months the days grow so long that they reach a point where the sun never sets and there is no cooling-off time period. This is not the case in the tropics, where the sun sets for a long evening of temperate, cool weather.

The glaciers that adorn Alaska's coastline are also a source of misconception. Just because Alaska has a multitude of them does not automatically equal freezing cold weather. Glaciers are present in many parts of the world that are not associated with cold weather, such as Africa, Asia, and South America. With the correct amount of precipitation and a high altitude, a glacier can form just abut anywhere, even in tropical and sub-tropical climates. Alaska does have some of the most beautiful glaciers in the world, however. These glaciers are one of the main reasons Alaska has become a popular luxury world cruise destination.

There is some truth to Alaska having cold areas, particularly in the northern regions. The sub-soil in these regions is eternally frozen and hard as concrete. Over 50% of Canada also has frozen sub-soil, as well as huge areas in the Soviet Union. These areas of frozen soil result in countless puddles (both large and small) and lakes ideal for planes with pontoons to land on in the summer.
About the Author
Sarah Martin is a freelance marketing writer based out of San Diego, CA. She specializes in travel, leisure, home improvement, life insurance, and fine wines. For great deals and special rates on upscale world cruises, please visit http://www.amttravel.com.
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