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Articles Blog

North Pole

Karyn Planett

You’re in for a Big Surprise

Oh, yes. A really big surprise. It will be very cold, lonely, and could be your unintended introduction to the Polar Bear Club. Why? Because the ice on the Arctic polar ice cap is only 6.5 to 10 feet thick. By the way, did you know that during winter, the ice cap is roughly the same size as the US? And in summertime, about 50% of that ice melts away. Anyway, it’s best if you just skooch your cozy chair toward the window today and simply watch the frosty scenery slip slowly past. Meanwhile, let’s think of everything related to the Polar Ice Cap and the North Pole.

Where the Heck is It?

Well, it depends what you’re asking about. The Magnetic North Pole or the Geographic North Pole? They’re not the same, you know. The Geographic North Pole, some people call it the North Terrestrial Pole or “true north”, is that tiny spot on the globe where all the longitudinal lines meet. Just look at a globe on the top at 90 degrees North latitude. From this exact point, all cartographers draw their longitudinal lines to the South Pole and it makes a tidy little grid so sailors and pilots and others will never be lost.

The Geographic North Pole is actually smack in the middle of the Arctic Ocean some 450 miles north of Greenland. So, if you manage to find your way to the exact North Pole and stand there then twirl around, everything within view would be south. And you would have to twirl because that part of the earth rotates at a snail’s pace, virtually imperceptibly. Not so if you were perched on the Equator where you’d be rocketing along at approximately 1,038 miles per hour. You also wouldn’t be able to perceive of this speed either because you’d probably be under a breezy palm next to someone adorable and you’d certainly not be thinking about geography, would you?

Oh, back to the North Pole. There’s also a Magnetic North Pole. So the North Magnetic Pole, per About.com, “is located hundreds of miles south of the geographic North Pole at approximately 82.7 degrees North and 114.4 West, northwest of Canada’s Sverdrup Island.” It’s where the Earth’s magnetic field points vertically downwards. I know it’s kind of confusing especially because it moves some 50 miles from its average center point daily so don’t bother searching for it. Plus, the arrow on your handy scout compass always points to the “N”.

Santa Needs No Compass

So where does Santa come from? If there are children in the vicinity, stop reading aloud. They’ve got their own fantasies of sugarplum fairies and the like to fill their heads. It’s believed that the jolly ol’ St. Nick we all know and love evolved from a Turkish Bishop Nicholas. A right proper sort, he, who lived in the 4th century A.D. He shared his wealth with those less fortunate, especially children, and was known to toss gifts into the homes of the truly needy. Over time, the Catholic Church named him a patron saint, St. Nicholas. The English called him Father Christmas. In Germany, he was Weinachtsmann. But it was the immigrants from the Netherlands that settled in America who brought with them... Sinter Klaas. Santa Claus. And the children all believe he lives at the North Pole with Mrs. Claus and a houseful of elves who toil right through the year making gifts for all the good boys and girls. That elaboration to the tale was created by a Thomas Nast for Harper’s Magazine between 1860 and 1880. Didn’t we all relish those images?

Some Fun Facts and Stats

  • It’s warmer at the North Pole than the South Pole, though wintertime temps average 30 below zero.
  • Robert Peary is recognized as the first person to reach the North Pole. That was on April 6th, 1909 with four Inuits and Matthew Henson. Some challenge this report and believe the accolades belong to American explorer Dr. Frederick A. Cook who claims to have achieved this goal one year earlier.
  • In 1958, US nuclear subs named “Slope” and “Nautilus” actually cruised beneath the North Pole’s ice.
  • Animals who reside at the North Pole include the popular polar bear, the lesser popular polar hare, reindeer, polar foxes, and musk ox.
  • The South Pole sits atop a landmass while the North Pole is astride drifting sea ice.
  • There are no penguins at the North Pole.
  • Only about 150 people “live” at the North Pole though not permanently. You live someplace more hospitable.