Veteran photographer Michael Melford travels to one of the most pristine places in Alaska where residents must choose between two incompatible futures.
National Geographic photographer Michael Melford has produced 12 feature stories for National Geographic magazine and more than 30 for
National Geographic Traveler, including eight covers. Some of
Michael’s recent assignments have focused on Russia, Israel, and North
America’s national parks.
He has produced photography for eight books
for National Geographic, including three on Alaska. While photographing Treasures of Alaska,
he spent four months traveling to every corner of the state. When not
shooting for the Geographic, Michael enjoys giving seminars and
workshops on photography and sharing both his love of nature and his
extensive knowledge of his craft.
State (pop., 2008 est.: 686,293) of the U.S., lying at the northwest extremity of North America. It is the largest in area of the U.S. states, covering 589,194 sq mi (1,526,005 sq km). Bordered by Canada to the east and southeast and facing Siberia across the Bering Strait and Bering Sea to the west, it has the highest point on the continent, Mount McKinley. Its capital is Juneau. The original inhabitants are thought to have migrated over the Bering Land Bridge as well as from the Arctic as early as 10,000 BCE. The first European settlement was established in 1784 by Russian fur traders on Kodiak Island. Hudson's Bay Co. traders were also interested in the same area, and Russian-Canadian trade rivalry lasted well into the 19th century. In 1867 William Seward negotiated Alaska's sale from the Russians to the U.S., and the subsequent discovery of gold stimulated American settlement. Alaska was a U.S. territory from 1912 until it was admitted as the 49th state in 1959. Its economy has become increasingly centred on services (research and tourism), but since the opening of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline in 1977, Alaska has accounted for about one-fifth of all the oil produced in the United States. Since the mid-20th century, the question of development versus preservation has been heightened by the often competing agendas of commercial interests and environmentalists. Moreover, global warming has greatly affected Alaska's climate, causing permafrost to thaw and sea ice to melt.