Vendée Globe 2008: Alaska

In the latest log, Skipper Wilson talked a bit about his mom, who turned 93 yesterday.

Back in 1938, when Mrs. Wilson was a young woman, she moved to what was then known as the Alaskan Territory. (It didn’t become a state until 1959.) She lived in Fairbanks, located in central Alaska, which is now the state’s second largest city with just under 35,000 residents. She moved there to take a job at a new radio station, KFAR, where she had a radio show called “Tundra Topics.”

Today, Alaska is the biggest state in the country — larger than Washington, D.C., and the 22 smallest states combined. Because of its large size and its northern location, it has a lot of interesting geography. Alaska is home to Mount McKinley (also called Denali), the tallest mountain in North American; the Bering Glacier, which is similar to the Antarctic glaciers we talked about in the last post and earlier this year; and the volcano Mount Shishaldin, which is noted for its shape — a nearly perfect cone.

Alaska is also the only area of Arctic tundra in the United States. Tundra describes a region that has few trees, permafrost (perpetually frozen soil), and dry, windy weather. But just like in Antarctica, the tundra is threatened by global warming as higher temperatures melt the permafrost. Unfortunately, as the tundra’s permafrost warms, it releases carbon into the atmosphere, which makes the air even warmer. This cycle makes this an area of concern for scientists worried about global warming and climate change.

Don’t forget to tune into Skipper Wilson’s latest podcast. Oh, and Happy Birthday, Mrs. Wilson.

Saving Aleut (6-12)
Archaeologists can spend a lifetime analyzing the artifacts of a lost civilization, in order to piece together a picture of that ancient culture. But a project now underway aims to document one culture before it’s lost. You’ll hear about it in this Science Update.


Tundra Quick Flick (3-8)
This resource, from National Geographic Kids, features a movie and quiz about tundra. After viewing the movie, users can test their knowledge of tundra by taking the interactive quiz.

Climate Change May Decimate Alaskan Tundra (3-12)
In this article from the National Wildlife Federation, scientists share concerns that increasing temperatures, caused by global warming, will eventually shrink the Arctic tundra. A loss of tundra would affect the wolves, brown bears, caribou, lemmings, and other mammals as well as migrating waterfowl that live in this ecosystem.

Alaska (K-12)
This resource, found in the Xpeditions Atlas, is a printable map of Alaska. The map allows the user to choose basic or detailed view, turn borders on or off, and save the map as a .pdf or .gif file.

Biomes of the World (3-8)
Biomes of the World, reviewed by Science NetLinks, provides information on rainforest, tundra, taiga, desert, temperate, and grassland biomes.

Online Adventure: Wild Alaska (3-6)
In this interactive online adventure, from National Geographic Kids, students go on a scavenger hunt in search of information about Alaska.


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