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Major Exploration in Alaska

The First Humans

No one is sure when the first peoples came to North America through Alaska, nor how, but it seems most likely that they crossed over the Bering Land Bridge sometime during the last Ice Age no more recently than about 10,000 years ago.  Evidence suggests that only about 70 individuals were successful enough to survive, as all American indigenous people have such similar traits after so long a time. These people were undisturbed for probably tens of thousands of years before they came into contact with the developing world...

Eagle perched on Holy Ascension Orthodox Church
Robert Spude
Eagle perched on Holy Ascension Orthodox Church
The Russians
The "Great Nordic Expedition" brought one Vitus Jonassen Bering to Southern Alaska in 1741 as he explored the area for the Russians. Legend says that 10,000 men took part in this venture, exploring the Aleutian Islands as well as the area that became Southcentral Alaska. His maps would be some of the first of the area, though the voyage would be his death; scurvy struck his crew as they were stranded on a desolate island and claimed many lives, including that of Bering.

Russian fur traders were next to come to the area, looking to exploit the luxurious furs of the sea otters, which were abundant at the time. Over time, the Russians established settlements along the area, concentrated in Southeast Alaska and the Aleutian Islands.


Captain Cook
British explorer Captain James Cook, on his search for the Northwest Passage, arrived on the coasts of Alaska in 1778. With him came a host of other renowned explorers including William Bligh, George Vancouver, and John Ledyard. Cook and his crew made contact with the Russians, and by combining their charts with his own was able to construct a drastically more complete view of the Northwest Pacific. He also traveled through the Bering Strait, crossing the Arctic Circle, traveling farther north than any European explorer had ever done before.

The Americans 

The United States purchased Alaska in 1867, (See the Alaska timeline at Within a few decades, they had penetrated not only into the interior, but well into the arctic as well. The population of these areas was largely due to the numerous gold rushes that took place in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. 

Close up profile of a brown and black wood frog. Did You Know?
There is a frog in Alaska that's habitat range extends above the Arctic Circle due to it's ability to freeze solid. Learn how by listening to our podcast!