Cruises come with presentations, and the most interesting lecture that Ruth and I attended introduced Alaska’s main symbols. It included many surprises. The introduction began with photos of some of them. On the screen in front of us were examples of gold, a moose, a dog sled, and The Big Dipper.
Each state has symbols that relate what is important to its area and people. The concept began with a world’s s fair held in Chicago in the 19th century. At the time Alaska was a huge territory that was newly acquired but not yet a state, and it was inhabited by many native tribes who didn’t especially care about symbols. It was more than 665,000 square miles and larger than California and Texas put together. Alaska contains 17 of the 25 tallest peaks in the United States including the tallest one of all, Denali. This accumulation of tallness dwarfs Colorado’s 14,000 feet wonders.
It was no surprise that dog racing has become the state sport. Dog sledding is certainly a symbolic example of Alaska’s sporting strength with the Iditarod terminating in Nome each spring after a grueling 1,100 mile race. Our host, an Alaskan woman, claimed that she hopes one day to reside in Malamute heaven as she showed us photos of adorable Malamute puppies, the state dog that has a thick, double coat of fur to help with insulation during this race.
The State Flower is the Alpine forget-me-not that has purple or blue flowers. They self-seed from June to September in Alaska, and exude their fragrance at night.
The State Flag contains both the North Star and the Great Dipper. It’s believed in this state that both celestial phenomena symbolize strength.
While the Malamute is the state dog, the moose is the state animal and the cause of many accidents. One time near the town of Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory a moose lumbered across the road in front of our rental. This was not the only bull moose incident that we have witnessed personally. There was a major accident involving a bull moose near Fairbanks just this year according to our host, a fact she related as she showed us photos of a horrific moose-vehicle accident in 2022.
To no one’s surprise the State Fish was the Chinook salmon. It really surprised us when the main restaurant on our ship served Atlantic Salmon each night. We had to find an onboard restaurant that served wild salmon daily and finally succeeded. Six percent of all Alaska jobs depend on this food staple.
Finally, the State Bird of Alaska is the Willow Ptarmigan, not the ubiquitous puffin. There are 492 bird species in this state, which is the only one that provides access to the Asian flyway. Our host became animated when she told us that the tiny town of Chicken, Alaska, received its name because the locals could not spell ptarmigan.