View of the harbour in Sitka, Alaska, USA
© Blaine Harrington III/Alam
Sitka shines on Alaska Day
In honour of Alaska Day, we're in the harbour of Sitka, Alaska, the former capital of Russian America in the early 19th century, when it was called Novo-Arkhangelsk. It was here on this day in 1867 that officials of the Russian Empire formally transferred the Territory of Alaska to the United States in a sale for US$7.2 million, or just around two cents per half hectare. It seems an astonishingly small price today, but at the time, opponents called it 'Seward's Folly' after then-US Secretary of State William H. Seward, who negotiated the deal. Few Americans moved to the 'Last Frontier' at first, but in the 1890s, when gold was discovered in the Yukon and Alaska, a rush of prospectors and others began a wave of settlers in the territory. Ever since, Alaska, with its vast natural resources and staggering beauty, has been a prized American domain and an enduring symbol of American wilderness.