Measuring Puny Rhode Island Against a Small Part of the Nation’s Largest State

The Malaspina Glacier in Southeast Alaska.

The Malaspina Glacier in Southeast Alaska. Michael Grass / Route Fifty

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Alaska is huge and a picture is worth a thousand words.

FLYING OVER MALASPINA GLACIER, ALASKA — The clear, sunny conditions that many parts of the 49th State have been enjoying this week made having a window seat flying from Juneau to Anchorage a special treat. The snowy and mountainous scenery going by 30,000 feet below was especially amazing.

The Alaska Airlines pilot took time to note some of the landmarks along the way, including Mount Elias, the 18,008-foot peak that sits on the U.S.-Canada border and is the second-highest point in North America.

Nearby Mt. Elias is Malaspina Glacier, which is the largest non-polar piedmont glacier in North America and likely in the entire world. Unlike tidewater glaciers, which reach the ocean, piedmont glaciers spill down from a mountainous area onto a flat plain, similar to if you were to pour pancake batter onto a griddle.

Flying over Malaspina Glacier, you get a better appreciation for just how vast Alaska is. For a comparison, that glacier, which is about 2,000 feet thick in some spots and covers more than 1,500 square miles, is larger than the entire state of Rhode Island, which is about 1,200 square miles.

Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Seattle.

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