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an island group off the western coast of North America; part of Alaska, USA. Consisting of 1,100 islands and cliffs, it covers a total area of 36,800 sq km. The largest islands are Prince of Wales, Admiralty, Baranof, Chichagof, and Kupreanof. Composed of intrusive and metamorphic rocks, the archipelago has a mountainous landscape rising to an elevation of 1,432 m. The shores are steep, with many fjords. The channels between the islands and the mainland form a convenient inner ice-free navigation route. The climate is temperate and oceanic, with the average temperature in January ranging between –1.6° and 1.2°C and in July, between 12° and 14°C. The annual precipitation is 2,000–3,000 mm. Up to an altitude of 1,000–1,100 m, the islands are covered with dense fir tree forests and above that, with mountain meadows. The population is about 30,000 (1963), including 8,000–9,000 native residents. The major industries are fur farming and salmon fishing. The archipelago was discovered in 1741 by the Russian expedition of Bering and Chirikov. Until 1867 it was the center of the Russian colony in America with the capital in the city of Sitka, which was called Novo Arkhangel’sk between 1804 and 1867.
REFERENCESAgranat, G. A., A. B. Kupriianov, and V. F. Puzanova. Naselenie i resursy Amerikanskogo Severa. Moscow, 1963.
Landscapes of Alaska. Edited by H. Williams. Berkeley-Los Angeles, 1958.