My students are aware that I grew up in Alaska. So I must have just headed home, correct? It's a family vacation.

    Not quite.

    Alaska is Big. Really Big.

    From north to south, Alaska spans 1420 miles - that is a little bit more than the distance between Chicago and the Mexican border. So here, in Fairbanks, I am more than a 5 hours drive away from my hometown. And the climate is way different than anything I encountered near the southern coast of Alaska!

    Map Drive 1
    A map showing the distance between my hometown, Big Lake, and Fairbanks, Alaska.

    But that doesn't compare to how far away I'll be this summer, when I'm in the Arctic circle. I will be another 9 hour drive away from Fairbanks, and about 15 hours driving away from my hometown. I'm going from one end of Alaska to the other.

    Map Drive 2
    And this indicates the total distance between my hometown and where I will be stationed this summer at Toolik Field Station.

    There Are Not A Lot of People Here

    Where I grew up in Alaska was moderately populated - Big Lake, Alaska has about 2700 people in 144 square miles. In comparison, Chicago has 2.7 million people in 244 square miles. So Chicago is only 611 times more populated than where I grew up! Not bad!

    In contrast, the North Slope borough has 9600 people total for 95000 square miles. So Chicago is 110,000 times more densely populated than North Slope. Imagine if 24 people lived in the entire city of Chicago, from Howard Street to south of 95th, and you'll have an idea of what I'm talking about here.

    Alaska census results
    A map showing population density in different boroughs (similar to counties) in Alaska. Notice that North Slope borough is HUGE - about 390 times the size of Chicago. Map courtesy of

    All photos and maps originally obtained from US Census.

    Weather Summary
    Cold, still, dry, Fairbanks.
    Wind Speed
    0 km/hour


    Janet Warburton

    Great journal Ivy! Welcome back to Alaska!! I love that you are from Big Lake and getting an opportunity to explore your very BIG back yard. It will be exciting for you and fun to follow your expedition! Welcome to PolarTREC!!