Bizarre Borders - Alaska and its Territorial Water Area

Samanyu Ram

March 10, 2023

Being the largest and northernmost state in the US, Alaska holds a mighty reputation. Its numerous mountain ranges, isolated islands, and beautiful landmarks make it the most bizarre state of all 50. Its territory is often disputed and leads to the uncertainty of which country is the third largest by area.

In 1867, the territory of Alaska was sold to the United States by Czar Alexander II for USD 7.2 million ($140 million in USD today). Now, experts estimate Alaska to be worth just over USD 37 billion. Then, in 1912, it became incorporated as an official United States territory. The capital moved to Juneau from Sitka. In 1946, under President Truman, Alaska finally achieved statehood and became the 49th state. The average median household income is around $81,000, making it the 12th highest in the US. Although the median household is decently high, the state is ranked dead last in terms of economy. It is ranked as the second worst in both education and crime out of all the states. It is among the bottom ten states for infrastructure, opportunity, and, surprisingly, natural environment. The only bright spot is Alaska's fiscal stability, where it is ranked the best of all US states. 

The bizarre part about Alaska is its borders and islands. It is home to over 2500 named islands and each of these islands are much bigger than they seem. When measuring the area of a country, the CIA and UN World Factbook must account for the inland water area. Without this inland water area, Canada would move from number two to number four, as it houses 3,000,000 lakes within its borders. Just counting land area, Russia is one, China is two, the US is three, and Canada is four. But the CIA and UN are biased toward the US, so they end up including the territorial waters as part of the US's total area, which they don't do for China. The territorial water area can seriously inflate a landmass's size. It's defined as 12 nautical miles from the landmass's coast. Since Alaska is home to over 2500 islands, 12 nautical miles of the total area is added to each island. This means that even if an island is 1 square mile large, it becomes inflated to 13 square miles because of the CIA and UN's biases. Alaska's peculiar island situation boosts the almighty US to number 3 on the ranks for the largest area by country. Hidden in plain sight, the bizarreness of Alaska continues to mesmerize people across the globe.