Blog 2: Maps

I enjoyed looking at all the maps in the reading but I particularly found 2.1, 2.2, 2.3 and 2.5 to be interesting.

Figure 2.1 was interesting to me because I love old maps and I enjoyed reading about the story behind the map. True, the map is lacking by modern standards. However, it is a primary source from a historic event that occurred in 1899. The fact that the map is not very detailed on the interior of Alaska is part of what makes the map interesting from a historical perspective. When this map was created American academics still had much to learn about the interior of Alaska. It was created during the “Age of Exploration’ of Alaska. I consider the map of Figure 2.1 to be a work of art. It is beautifully illustrated.

Figure 2.2 was interesting as well. I found the explanation of explanatory theories in geography that accompanied the map to be interesting. I was a little bit surprised to see how few hospitals there are in Alaska compared to the number of communities in the state. I had never given it much thought before looking at the map but many communities in Alaska are relatively far removed from the closest hospital. I grew up near San Jose in California. I had never lived in a small town, let alone a rural area, before moving to Alaska but now I live in Chugiak, which feels rural to me. As I have traveled to small communities in Alaska (Nome, or on the Dalton Highway) I have been surprised that people choose to live in those places. From my perspective, even Anchorage seems isolated and remote from the rest of the country. I have spoken to people in the small communities that I have visited in Alaska and most of them seem to love living where they do. I personally cannot imagine living so far removed from the closest major hospital but many people in Alaska do and they are comfortable with it.

I enjoyed studying Figure 2.3 as well. I liked looking at the distribution of forests in Alaska. I don’t know much about different kinds of trees but I have always found the trees in Alaska to be interesting. Growing up in California we used to go and camp in the groves of giant redwood trees. That is kind of what I expected Alaska to look like the first time I came up. I was surprised that the trees in Alaska were relatively small compared to the giant redwoods and ponderosa pines that I had grown up with. I have been told that trees don’t grow as large up here because of the darkness and the permafrost. I live in the woods in Chugiak and it was interesting being able to find Chugiak on the map and seeing what kind of forest I live in. As you look at Figure 2.3 you notice that there are no forests at the top of the state. I suppose this is due to the cold and darkness in the winter. When I drove up the Dalton highway to Deadhorse it was pretty incredible to get to the point where there were no more trees.

I also enjoyed studying Figure 2.5 as well. I have driven across the United States. I have also driven from Anchorage to Deadhorse. It is always cool to look at maps that compare the relative size of Alaska and the lower 48 because it reminds me of those long road trips that I have taken. I teach geography and my students often ask me how big Alaska is compared to the lower 48. When these questions arise, we look at a map that is similar to Figure 2.5 in the atlas that my students use. Figure 2.5 really shows how vast the state of Alaska is.

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