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When Is The North Pole Not A North Pole?

90 Degrees North

The North Pole is known by many different names; ‘The Top of the World’, ‘Santa’s Home’, ’90 Degrees North’ and many more things in other languages. But, as geography and physics fans may already know, there is actually more than one ‘North Pole’ in the world.

So what’s the difference between all these different claimants to the term? And which one is actually the real North Pole? Hopefully this blog post will go some way to answering these questions.

The Geographical North Pole –

Geographical North Pole

The geographic North Pole is probably the one that we are all most familiar with and is the place that you will get to explore when embarking on one of our limited North Pole expeditions. Although it is situated in the middle of the Arctic Ocean, and not on a mass of land like the South Pole, it is a fixed point and can be found at 90 degrees north. This point is also sometimes referred to as ‘True North’.

The Instantaneous North Pole -

This term is something that fewer people are likely to be aware of, but it is very closely linked to the geographical North Pole. The instantaneous pole is found at the point where the Earth’s axis meets its surface or, put simply, where you would start your line if you were to dissect the world in two along the point which it spins around. Due to the fact that the Earth slightly wobbles when it turns on its axis, the Instantaneous North Pole changes with this movement.

The Magnetic North Pole –

Anyone who already knew that there was more than one will have probably heard of the magnetic North Pole. This is the point where Earth’s magnetic field is effectively vertical and the place where if you held a compass out, the needle would attempt to point straight down and enact a kind of ‘dipping’ action. This pole is actually on the move and was last recorded heading towards Russian territory. Before this it was recorded to be in the Canadian Arctic, near to Ellesmere Island.

The Geomagnetic North Pole –

Geomagnetic North Pole

Picture by JrPol

The Geomagnetic North Pole is very closely linked to the magnetic pole, but they are not the same thing. Whilst both concerning themselves with the Earth’s magnetic field, the geomagnetic version is determined when we view this field in the same way to that of a bar magnet, or dipole. If you were to draw the dipole (closed circuit) around the hypothetical bar magnet at the centre of the earth, then the Geomagnetic North Pole would be at the northernmost point of this vertical axis.

The magnetic and geomagnetic poles are therefore not in the same place as the former fits with the Earth’s axis which is obviously tilted. The geomagnetic poles (there’s a south one too) also reverse their orientation at regular points throughout our planet’s life.

On the picture above, the Geomagnetic North Pole is marked with the letters Ng, whilst the letters Nm and Sm represent the north and south magnetic poles.

The Celestial North Pole –

If we revisit the imaginary line that we drew through the Earth when referring to the Instantaneous North Pole, we can use it to help us describe the celestial one. Unlike the other poles on this list, this one doesn’t exist as a point on the Earth but instead as a point in space. By extending the line that we drew before into the sky, the celestial pole would be where it meets the limit of our celestial sphere. Without going into too much detail, our celestial sphere is a shape of arbitrarily large radius around the planet, which represents the limits of how far we can see into space.

The North Pole Of Inaccessibility –

This is the point that many explorers are interested in and one that doesn’t actually refer to a physical point, but a geographical fabrication. It is determined by the land masses around it and is situated at the furthest point away from these and any infrastructure that could provide access. Therefore, the North Pole of Inaccessibility can be found at a point in the Arctic pack ice that is equidistant from Ellesmere Island, Franz Josef Land and the New Siberian Islands.

North Pole, Alaska, USA –

Perhaps the strangest ‘pole’ on the list is this one found in Alaska. It is in fact a small town which was given this name in the 1950s by a development company who hoped this would attract a toy manufacturer to the area. As of 2010, the population was little over 2,000 and the town’s post office receives thousands of letters every year addressed to Santa Claus.

We hope that this has shed a bit of light on all the different types of North Pole that there are in existence. As for which one is the real one, well that depends on the context. Here at Fred.\ though, we like to think that the geographical point of 90 degrees north is the most authentic pole and we hope anyone choosing an expedition to this part of the world enjoys its magic and wonder.

So when is the North Pole not a North Pole? Well, when it’s a small town in Alaska, of course.