[[UsefulNotes/TheUnitedStates America]]'s last true frontier, Alaska is, by a very wide margin, the largest of [[UsefulNotes/TheSeveralStates the 50 states]]. The next competitor for the title, [[EverythingIsBigInTexas Texas]], is less than half its size. If it were [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Alaska_area_compared_to_conterminous_US.svg overlaid over the contiguous 48 states]], then Anchorage, its largest city, would be in Missouri; Barrow, its northernmost town, would be in Minnesota; Ketchikan, its southernmost, would be in Florida; Nome would be in South Dakota; Juneau, the state capital, would be in Georgia; and the Aleutian Islands would stretch all the way into UsefulNotes/{{California}}. Bottom line: Alaska is ''huge''.

But Alaska is also very sparsely populated. As of the 2010 census, there were just over 710,000 human beings living in Alaska, making the state the fourth least-populated in the nation, outranking only North Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming. And this comes ''after'' a huge population surge (many migrants coming in from California, Oregon, and Washington for economic opportunities) -- in the 2000 and 1990 censuses, Alaska was firmly the second-smallest state by population, just barely ahead of Wyoming. More than half of those people live in only one tiny corner of the state: the Anchorage metropolitan area, with about 40% of the population living in Anchorage itself. The state has, by far, the lowest population density in the country. Part of this likely has to do with the fact that most of Alaska is either [[SlippySlideyIceWorld frozen tundra or forbidding mountains]], something of an American version of Siberia, with only the coastal regions in the south being really hospitable.[[note]]Although in the future, GlobalWarming may push the line between "Cold" and "Oh-god-this-is-fuckin'-freezing!" further north, making the state more welcoming to new arrivals.[[/note]] The lowest temperature ever recorded in the U.S., 80 [[UsefulNotes/AmericanCustomaryMeasurements Fahrenheit]] (62 Celsius), was taken in Prospect Creek, Alaska, on January 23, 1975.

Alaska was the first place in the Americas that human beings laid eyes on, as the last ice age lowered sea levels enough so that a land bridge, known as Beringia, formed between Alaska and Siberia.[[note]]The remnants of this bridge are the Bering Sea Islands of St. Lawrence, Nunivak, and the Diomedes.[[/note]] The people who crossed Beringia are the ancestors of all the aboriginal tribes of North and South America, from [[InjunCountry the Iroquois and the Sioux]] to [[{{Mayincatec}} the Aztecs and the Inca]]. Some of them, of course, stayed in Alaska, living off the ample supplies of fish in the waters off the state's long coastline. Collectively, they are known as the Alaska Natives, a group that encompasses the Tlingit, the Haida, the Tsimshian, the Aleut, the Yupik, the Alutiiq, the Gwich'in, and the Inuit.

The first Europeans to lay eyes on Alaska were the Russians in 1741, who colonized it for the same reason that everybody else in Europe wanted a piece of the Americas: getting rich. Specifically, the Russians were there for the fur trade, and claimed an area that includes much of the [[TheOtherRainforest Pacific Northwest]]. As the U.S. and Canada expanded west, the Russian claims were pushed back to the present-day area of Alaska. The colony was never very profitable for Russia, and was increasingly under pressure from Canada and its British protectors, so when the Americans came knocking at their door in 1867 asking to buy it from them for the [[{{Pun}} cool]] sum of $7.2 million, the Russians were happy to oblige. The purchase of Alaska was highly controversial initially, with many people calling it "Seward's Folly" or "Seward's Icebox" (after Secretary of State William H. Seward, the man who organized the purchase) and viewing it as a worthless wasteland that America would find no better use for than Russia did.

In time, however, America would soon realize just what a great deal it had gotten. Some 30 years after the purchase, a series of gold rushes in both Alaska and, more importantly, in the neighboring Yukon Territory of Canada,[[note]]Despite most of the gold being in Canadian territory, the easiest way to get there was by boat, followed by a relatively short overland trek; this meant the majority of prospectors ''had'' to start in Alaska, and it made Skagway into a boom town.[[/note]] turned the area into TheWildWest ''[[RecycledInSpace ON ICE]]'', allowing it to gain enough people to be incorporated as a territory in 1912. After that, the Aleutian Islands were the site of the Aleutian Islands Campaign during UsefulNotes/WorldWarII (and the only part of the United States to be {{invaded|StatesOfAmerica}} during the war). Known as the "Forgotten Campaign", because it was overshadowed by the simultaneous Battle of Guadalcanal, this chapter of WWII made up in bloodshed what it lacked in significance; After a gruelling and savage winter war that rivalled even the Eastern Front in brutality, the Japanese ended it all with an unexpected mass Banzai charge, one of the largest in the Pacific, which split the American lines into pieces and resulted in a day-long hand-to-hand melee until the 29 Japanese survivors finally surrendered.

Alaska's true value, however, was completely unforeseeable to the 19th-century Americans, and only became obvious in the late 1940s: Ladies and gentlemen, imagine ''Soviet'' Alaska. The West really dodged a bullet on that one, no? Anyway, with the onset of the UsefulNotes/ColdWar, Alaska became the cornerstone of America's defense against [[UsefulNotes/FromRussiaWithNukes Soviet bombers]]. The two wars, and the resulting military investment, caused a population surge in Alaska, allowing it to be inaugurated as the 49th state in 1959, followed by UsefulNotes/{{Hawaii}} a few months later.[[note]]Fact: the reason the two states weren't admitted at the same time is apparently because, since the U.S. flag can only be ''officially'' changed on July 4th, flag-makers wanted to be able to have one year of selling 49-star flags -- thus Alaska was admitted before the 4th and Hawaii after.[[/note]][[note]] If only it had been admitted before New Mexico and Arizona. [[WhatCouldHaveBeen Then it could have been called "AK-47!"]][[/note]]

The two moments that defined Alaska's modern existence were the discovery of oil in Prudhoe Bay in 1968, and the completion of the Alaskan Pipeline in 1977 to bring that oil to the rest of the country. Oil money transformed Alaska from a backwater to one of the richest states in America, and the state has set up a permanent fund to invest some of its oil revenue for the benefit of the people. Every Alaskan receives a dividend (of varying amounts -- in 2011, $1281; in 2012, $878), meaning that a family of four has a guaranteed welfare check of about $5000... which just about makes up for the substantially higher cost of living. While it's gotten better in Anchorage and, to a lesser extent, Fairbanks, prices for basic goods are still ridiculously expensive in most of the state, due to the isolation of many towns and the harsh conditions making freight transport [[Series/IceRoadTruckers quite difficult]].

And now, for the part you've been waiting for: UsefulNotes/SarahPalin. Yes, she spent a little more than two years as the governor of this state. [[RuleOfCautiousEditingJudgment Now let's keep discussion about her to a minimum, all right?]] The ''other'' [[Creator/MichaelPalin Palin]] (no, not the former governor's husband) has also been here. His travelogue series about voyaging all around the Pacific Rim nations featured a visit to Alaska, where at one point he really ''could'' see Russia from the part of Alaska he was standing in. So one Palin really did manage it -- but it wasn't Sarah.

Some fun facts:

* The capital of Alaska, Juneau, is the only state capital located on an international border (the Canadian border, [[MemeticMutation not the]] [[Creator/TinaFey Russian one]]),[[note]]Currently, that is; for a few years in the 1830s and '40s, the capital of UsefulNotes/{{Michigan}} was in UsefulNotes/{{Detroit}}, also on the border with (then-British) Canada; this was moved for reasons of logistics and fear of British invasion.[[/note]] and is one of the state capitals that cannot be reached by land.[[note]]Honolulu, Hawaii's capital, is the other, of course.[[/note]] To reach Juneau, you must fly or take a boat in.
** Considering that Juneau is many hundreds of miles from Anchorage and its environs (the state's major population center), along with the whole can't-drive-there thing making access very inconvenient, there have naturally been several votes to move the state's capital to either Anchorage or some town close to it. The capital remains in Juneau, however, because no one is willing to pay the extra taxes it would take to relocate the government.[[note]]Some of Alaska's state agencies are already headquartered in Anchorage for convenience, but many of the most important ones are not. Moving involves more than just telling the governor and elected officials to meet elsewhere; there are innumerable files and archives, computer servers, and equipment that would have to be moved, to say nothing of relocating the workers and building new facilities to house it all. Plus, the people would surely want a proper statehouse (Alaska's legislature currently meets in a disused bank). Doing all of that would cost hundreds of millions of dollars, so nobody wants to foot the bill.[[/note]]
* It is true that, in much of the state, nighttime can go for several consecutive weeks in the winter, and daylight can do the same in the summer. However, "six months of light, six months of darkness" is something of an overstatement. In Barrow, which is basically the worst-case scenario, the sun doesn't officially rise between about November 20 and January 20, but locals still get about three hours of twilight per day. The opposite is true around the summer solstice, where even in Anchorage the sun doesn't completely vanish from view for several weeks.
* Alaska has more registered pilots per capita than any other state. In a place where the navigability of the roads is often in doubt, and some places just don't have roads, and still other places are islands, this is very much {{justified|Trope}}.
** On a related note, the terrain in southwestern Alaska is so unpredictable that delivery service to the villages is often conducted by [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SXBQeSA-vZw hovercraft]].
* Unlike the other 49 states, not all of Alaska is organized into counties (or "parishes" as in Louisiana, or "boroughs" as in Alaska itself). In the "unorganized borough" covering more than half the state, the only local services are municipalities and school boards, with everything else handled directly by the state or by the tribal government. It was originally intended that Alaska would have multiple unorganized boroughs for all the regions that either lacked sufficient population for an organized borough or just didn't want one (the state constitution specifically authorizes such an arrangement) but it was soon realized that it would be simpler to just designate the entire state as the unorganized borough and then carve organized boroughs out of it as needed.[[note]]Oddly enough, the first organized borough wasn't drawn around Anchorage, or even Fairbanks or Juneau, but tiny Bristol Bay with no incorporated towns and a population of less than 1,000. Even stranger, one of the unincorporated towns of Bristol Bay Borough, King Salmon, is the seat of government for ''another borough'', the neighboring (and barely more populous) Lake and Peninsula Borough. This is the only county-equivalent in the United States to have its government seated outside its own borders.[[/note]] There are periodic calls to create more organized boroughs out of the remainder of the unorganized borough, but since so much of it is completely devoid of human residents nothing ever comes of it.
* The tallest mountain in North America, Denali (formerly Mount [=McKinley=], after [[UsefulNotes/WilliamMcKinley a president who never set foot in Alaska and never knew that anybody was naming a mountain after him]], though the native name has always been what most Alaskans called it), is in Alaska. This mountain, incidentally, is among the tallest from base to summit in the world (Everest, for one, may have a much higher summit, but its base does not begin until at least 15,000' above sea level).
* There is a town west of Fairbanks called North Pole, which is the official-unofficial place the United States Postal Service sends all the children's letters to Santa Claus. This has been embraced by the town, with North Pole becoming a bit of a StepfordSuburbia[[note]]See the "Truth in Television" section of the linked article.[[/note]] where the entire town is Christmas-themed and local sixth-graders are required to help answer letters to Santa.
** Incidentally, North Pole is nowhere near Barrow, the American town closest to the ''actual'' North Pole.
* Less than 1% of Alaskan land is privately owned. The rest belongs to either the national government (~65%), the state government (25%), or one of twelve Native corporations (10%).[[note]]There is a thirteenth native corporation, but they received no land, only money. This particular company was created specifically to compensate Alaska Natives who lived outside the state.[[/note]]
* The final shot of UsefulNotes/TheAmericanCivilWar was fired off the coast of Alaska. [=CSS=] ''Shenandoah'' was a commerce raider with the job of harassing, disrupting, and destroying Union supply ships. During the summer of 1865, they had been working the Bering Sea attacking Union whaling ships; in August 1865, they were informed by a friendly British crew that the war was over and the Confederacy dissolved. The crew of the ''Shenandoah'' knew that if they surrendered to the Union, they'd be given a perfunctory trial and executed for piracy, despite the fact that the Union and all major naval powers had ships just like theirs.[[note]]The Union would have responded to this argument by saying something along the lines of "You weren't a major power, just rebels; your government was illegal and didn't actually exist; no government means you weren't licensed to raid commerce; and no license makes you pirates."[[/note]] Instead, they sailed west around Asia and Africa, finally debarking in Liverpool.
* Towards the end of UsefulNotes/WorldWarII, the United States designed and began to build the ''Alaska'' Class Large Cruisers. These ships, which were [[GiantMook scaled-up Cruisers]] rather than [[GlassCannon slimmed-down Battleships]], were intended to be dedicated "Cruiser Killers" (a similar role as envisioned for the Battlecruisers). Cruisers were traditionally named for cities, and Battleships traditionally named for states. Battlecruisers had no firm naming convention, the only (cancelled) American battlecruiser class having taken their names from famous Revolutionary War and War of 1812 ships, but the "Large Cruisers" were considered something different and needed their own naming theme. Being in-between, the Large Cruisers were to be named for U.S. Territories.[[note]]Two ships, ''Alaska'' and ''Guam'', were built, ''Hawaii'' was cancelled during construction after proposals to convert her into either an oversized guided missile cruiser or a command ship were considered and then fell through, ''Philippines'', ''Puerto Rico'', and ''Samoa'' never left the drawing board.[[/note]]
* The YanksWithTanks have several bases in Alaska, but the most notorious is Shemya, a radar and refueling station miles from anywhere on a tiny island. This place is basically the closest a member U.S. Air Force can get to being truly ReassignedToAntarctica. During the Cold War, missile launches were tracked from Shemya; there was supposedly a tradition that, when you left Shemya for good, you had to take a rock with you, so that one day there would be no more island left and nobody would need to be sent there.
* Although Sarah Palin's claim that she could see Russia from her house was actually a BeamMeUpScotty, Alaskans living on Little Diomede ''can'' see the Russian island of Big Diomede.[[note]]Palin's real quotation was "They're our next-door neighbors, and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska." This is all perfectly true, but by no means does it pass for foreign policy experience. The fact that being able to see one unpopulated island while standing on another barely-populated one was presented as being relevant to foreign policy was the source of the original mockery. "I can see Russia from my house" was uttered by Creator/TinaFey in a ''Series/SaturdayNightLive'' sketch in which she and Creator/AmyPoehler were respectively parodying Palin and UsefulNotes/HillaryRodhamClinton.[[/note]]

!!Alaska in popular culture:

* ''ComicBook/ThirtyDaysOfNight'' is set in Barrow, and [[ArtisticLicenseGeography fails geography spectacularly]] with its portrayal of the town and the surrounding North Slope.
* The brothers ComicBook/{{Cyclops}} and Havok from ''ComicBook/XMen'' are originally from Anchorage. They still have love for the area and returned a couple times during sabbaticals from superheroism.
* Michael Pointer, AKA, Weapon Omega (from Omega Flight and ComicBook/NormanOsborn's ''X-Men'') is from North Pole, Alaska.
** Creator/{{Marvel|Comics}} must be a big fan of Alaska, because the so-called [[MessianicArchetype Mutant Messiah]] (the first mutant born after [[ComicBook/HouseOfM M-Day]], later named [[MeaningfulName/ComicBooks Hope]]) was born in Cooperstown, Alaska.
* No big surprise that the GIJoe named Frostbite (real name [[LocationThemeNaming Farley S. Seward]]) is from Galena, Alaska.

* Alicia Lily Aska from ''FanFic/TheHamsterballShow'' is from Alaska. In fact, her first and middle initials plus her last name ''[[UpToEleven spells out Alaska]]''!

* The [[ExtremeSportExcusePlot extreme sports]] comedy ''Film/OutCold'' is set at an Alaskan ski resort.
* The film ''Film/{{Alaska}}'', a KidsWildernessEpic.
* WesternAnimation/TheSimpsons relocate to Alaska briefly in ''WesternAnimation/TheSimpsonsMovie''.
* Much of ''Film/TheProposal'' was set in Sitka, Alaska (though filmed in [[CaliforniaDoubling Massachusetts]]).
* ''Film/TheGrey'' is about a group of Prudhoe Bay oil workers who get stranded in the Alaskan wilderness after a plane crash.
* ''Film/TheFourthKind'' takes place in Nome. It was actually filmed in Bulgaria and British Columbia, [[ArtisticLicenseGeography and it shows]].
* Creator/ChristopherNolan's remake of ''Film/{{Insomnia}}'' is set in Nightmute, Alaska ([[CaliforniaDoubling but mostly filmed in British Columbia]]). The long periods of daylight are worked into the plot, being one of the factors that prevents protagonist [[Creator/AlPacino Will Dormer]] from sleeping.
* In ''Film/WarGames'', Elmendorf Air Force Base (near Anchorage) is one of the bases supposedly hit by the Soviet first strike.
* ''Film/SnowDogs'' is set in Talkeetna, but was filmed in Alberta. Despite the film having been marketed as a zany talking-animal comedy, it gives a surprisingly fair portrayal of rural Alaskan towns.
* ''Film/PacificRim'' opens in Anchorage, the hometown of the hero and his brother. A kaiju attack on nearby Anchorage is what sets the movie's motions forward.
* 1924 silent film ''Film/TheChechahcos'' is not only the first movie to be shot on location in Alaska, it's one of the first movies to be shot on location anywhere.

* A lot of Creator/JackLondon's stories, such as ''Call of the Wild'', ''White Fang'', and ''Batard'', take place in Alaska.
* ''Literature/IntoTheWild''.
* In ''Literature/{{Twilight}}'', the Cullens are stated to have lived in Alaska before moving down to Forks.
* ''Literature/JulieOfTheWolves''.
* The 2009 short story "New Archangel" by Desmond Warzel takes place in Sitka at various points in Alaskan history.
* In ''Literature/TheHeroesOfOlympus'', it is ''literally'' "the land beyond the gods." It is also where the titan Alcyoneus has his lair.
* ''Literature/TheYiddishPolicemensUnion'' by Creator/MichaelChabon is set in an AlternateHistory where, during UsefulNotes/WorldWarII, the U.S. settled Jewish refugees from Europe in Sitka, Alaska, turning it into an autonomous state for sixty years. By the present day of 2007, the lease is about to expire, with the evangelical U.S. president hoping to resettle the Sitka Jews in Palestine.
* The ''Literature/KateShugak'' mysteries by Dana Stabenow. Shugak is a PrivateDetective operating out of the largest national Park in Alaska.

* ''Series/NorthernExposure''.
* ''Sarah Palin's Alaska''.
* In ''Series/TheEvent'', the government is holding the aliens at a secret base in northern Alaska.
* ''Series/DeadliestCatch''.
* Seasons 3 and 4 of ''Series/IceRoadTruckers''.
* ''Flying Wild Alaska''.
* ''Series/TheXFiles'' has the season 1 episode "Ice", and homage to ''Film/TheThing1982'' takes place in isolated Alaska.
* [[Series/StarTrekTheNextGeneration Will Riker]] was (will be?) born in Valdez, Alaska (in the year [[TheFuture 2335]]).
* An episode of ''Series/RiverMonsters'' took place in Alaska, even had a rather unnerving run-in with a [[BearsAreBadNews grizzly]].
* ''Series/GoldRush'': Season one was about a crew of rookie gold miners at Porcupine Creek. Later seasons saw the Porcupine Creek mines close and all of the mining happening in Canada's Yukon Territory. Parker Schnabel still calls Haines home.
* ''Series/BeringSeaGold'': The entire series takes place in and around the town of Nome, halfway up the west side of the Alaskan mainland
* ''Series/AxMen'' features one crew harvesting timber on several different islands in Southeast Alaska in seasons 4 and 5.
* ''Alaska State Troopers'', a program similar to ''COPS'' is naturally set in Alaska.
* In Season 3 of ''Series/MalcolmInTheMiddle'', older brother Francis emancipates himself from the military academy, in order to work in a logging camp somewhere in the wilds of Alaska. The rest of the season is spent with him [[GoneHorriblyRight trying to escape the indentured servitude he so willingly threw himself into]].
* ''Alaska: The Last Frontier'': interestingly, the main cast are related to below-mentioned Jewel.
* ''Series/IditarodTheToughestRaceOnEarth'' is set here. The RealLife race commemorates the 1925 Serum Run, a delivery of medicine via sled dogs which saved the village of Nome from diphtheria.

* Folk singer-songwriter Music/{{Jewel}} is from the town of Homer. (She wasn't born in Alaska, but then again, neither are many of its residents.)
* [[http://mariancall.com/ Marian Call]] makes her home in Alaska (though, like Jewel, was not born there). Very much OneOfUs, as her music usually contains themes from {{geek}} culture, especially from her album ''Got to Fly'' (which even has a [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PLBb58iHiRA Nerd Anthem]]).

* In the ''VideoGame/{{Fallout}}'' universe, RedChina invades Alaska for its increasingly valuable oil supplies, precipitating WorldWarIII between them and the U.S. The ''VideoGame/{{Fallout 3}}'' DLC ''Operation Anchorage'' allows you to play a virtual reality simulation of the U.S. Army's liberation of Anchorage.
* In the Soviet campaign of ''[[CommandAndConquerRedAlert Command and Conquer: Red Alert 2]]'', the Allies make their LastStand at Point Hope, Alaska.
* Abigail Black from ''VideoGame/CliveBarkersJericho'' is from Fairbanks.
* In ''ShatteredUnion'', the Russians invade Alaska after [[DividedStatesOfAmerica the U.S. collapses]]. The final mission, after you reunite America, has you invading Alaska to drive out the Russians. Despite it being the largest map in the game, it still only covers roughly a fifth of the state.
* In ''VideoGame/MetalGearSolid'', Shadow Moses Island is located in the Aleutians while Solid Snake lives near Twin Lakes.

* The MemeticMutation "series of tubes" came from a gaffe made by Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, who has an airport named after him in Anchorage.

* In the ''WesternAnimation/{{Futurama}}'' movie ''Bender's Game'', Mom has a dark matter mine operating out of Alaska.
** It is implied later that Mom hails from Alaska.
* In an episode of ''WesternAnimation/UglyAmericans'', Leonard briefly works in a cannery in Alaska.
* In the ''WesternAnimation/GIJoeARealAmericanHero'' episode "The Great Alaskan Land Rush", a COBRA-sponsored buffoon shows up with a counterfeit "Great Seal of Alaska", an artifact lost after the 1867 handover of Alaska that purportedly gave its owner control of said territory. The Joes set out to find the real Seal and encounter both a COBRA battle group sent to stop them and a group of descendants from the shipwrecked Imperial Russian steamer that carried the Seal.
* "It was an [[WesternAnimation/SpongeBobSquarePants ALASKAN BULL WORM]]!"
* The Pixar short film ''Knick Knack'' stars a snowman trapped in a snow globe with "Nome Sweet Nome, Alaska" written on the base.