Anyone visiting Juneau in Alaska by cruise ship should know that the region originally belonged to the Russian Empire. In 1867, the United States bought the vast area of land in the extreme northwest of the continent from the Tsar for 7,2 million US dollars.
Alaska's gold reserves had not yet been discovered at the time, and the originally very productive fur hunting declined after the stocks were decimated. From the Russian point of view, the administration of the territory was too costly and, moreover, the lines of communication at the time were endless.
Secretary of State William Henry Seward
After the takeover, Alaska remained a "USA Territory" until the end of 1958. This made it subject to the laws of the American federal government, but without being a state. Alaska became the 49th state of the USA on January 3, 1959.
According to current estimates, fewer than 740.000 people live on the huge area. In Alaska there is one inhabitant for every two square kilometers. The northernmost US state takes up almost one fifth (exactly 17,5 percent) of the total land area of the USA. Despite its enormous proportions, Alaska is of little political or economic importance compared to other US states. Alaska is especially for lovers of pure nature.
Juneau - capital of the state of Alaska
Alaska's pure, pristine nature is also eager to be enjoyed by visitors arriving by cruise ship. Cruise tourism is growing in Alaska, and Juneau is no exception. In 2018, more than 500 cruise lines called Juneau in the five-month cruise season. On peak days, up to five cruisers stop in Juneau's harbor.
Two cruise ships are moored in Juneau
More than 500 ship calls could suggest a large and important city, especially since Juneau is still the capital of a US state. Far from it: In the ranking of the largest cities in Alaska, Juneau ranks third after Anchorage and Fairbanks. While Anchorage has nearly 300.000 residents, Fairbanks and Juneau each have more than 32.000 residents. What distinguishes Juneau from the other two cities: In 1906, Juneau took over from Sitka as the capital of what was then the Alaska territory. And that's the way it is to this day.
Alaska State Capitol
Juneau - city of gold mines
Juneau is in the area of Inside Passage on the Gastineau Channel, the narrow passage between the offshore island of Douglas Island and the Coast Mountains towering steeply in the east of the city. Juneau grew rapidly after gold was discovered in 1880. Within a short period of time it was the site of two gold mines, and it remained a mining town until the 1940s. During the Second World War, the mines were closed due to a lack of labor. Since the first gold discoveries and the end of gold mining, gold to the value of seven billion US dollars is said to have been mined in Juneau alone, based on today's standards.
A curiosity: Juneau has no land connections to the rest of Alaska or to other states of the USA. The city can only be reached by air and by sea. Passenger shipping has been in operation in the Inside Passage since 1881.
Juneau in the present
Juneau's alternative to gold is tourism. In particular, the regular visits to the cruise ships ensure many seasonal jobs. However, it should not be concealed that the dominance of ships in the months from May to September is viewed critically by many residents.
Juneau's Visitor Center
The most important and safest employers are the public administration institutions. The various facilities create four out of ten jobs. The administration has a 25 percent stake in Juneau's economic development.
Other sectors of the economy are fishing, the international airport, the regional airline Alaska Seaplanes, energy supply and the service industry.
The Juneau fishing pier
All of this is reason enough to make a detour to Juneau with or without a cruise ship. The usual clothing recommendation is: "Prepare for the worst and hope for the best" (calculate with the worst and hope for the best). Under Juneau Landmarks we show what there is to do in and around Juneau even in extremely bad weather.
Update April 2021