Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Greetings from Alaska! Alaska means “the great land” and boy is it ever great!
This great land is a vast, rugged, and stunningly beautiful chunk of county!
Alaska is HUGE! It is nearly 586,000 square miles. Alaska contains more coastline, more lakes, more streams and rivers, more National Parks, more wildlife refuge, more natural resources, more forests, more glaciers, and more wildlife that any state in the Union! Even with all is vast landscape, its population is the smallest in America. There are only about 650,000 people who call Alaska home. Alaska is not a very easy place to live- long, dark, cold winters, a high cost of living, and isolation make living in Alaska a challenge!
There are six distinct areas in Alaska. Each share common ethnic and cultural heritage, common geographic features, and common histories. The six areas are: the Arctic, the Western Peninsula, the Interior, the South Central, the Aleutian Islands and Southeast Alaska.
The area I am traveling in and exploring is Southeastern Alaska. This area is also known and the “panhandle”. It is an odd looking appendage that hangs down along the coastline south of the main body of Alaska. This area is bordered by the Gulf of Alaska to the west and British Columbia to the east. The Tongass National Forest is located in this area of Alaska. This is the largest national forest in the country. It is over 17 million acres and takes up most of Southeast Alaska.
This amazing area is one of the most geologically active places on Earth! There are more earthquakes, more volcanoes, more glaciers, and more mountains than anyplace in North America. We will talk about how this all came to be during our study of the “Sphere of Earth” and plate tectonics in both 5th and 6th grades this year!
Alaska’s location on the globe means long daylight hours in the summertime. Lots of daylight spurs lots of vegetation growth in the summer on land. It also encourages lots of algae (plankton) production in the water. This makes this area an awesome habitat for many forms of wildlife! We will learn much about habitats when we study ecosystems and food chains during the school year.
Joe and I are on a cruise ship named the “ms Oosterdam”. It is part of the Holland America fleet. This ship is our “taxi” through the Tongass National Forest. The ship is 736 feet long and 105 feet wide. It holds nearly 2,000 guests. The ship is like a small city on water. There are guest rooms, restaurants, shops, movie theaters, auditoriums, swimming pools and even a basketball court on board!
Boy, are we having a great time! The food is amazing and abundant! The entertainment is exciting! The classes and lectures by Steve Spangler and our naturalist, John Scheerens are very interesting. The photo options are un-ending. Everywhere we look is picture perfect!