December is a time of year when the North Pole comes into conversation a lot more frequently than say in the middle of July. This is because it’s the home of good old Saint Nick, a handful of hardworking elves, some reindeer, and is peppered with some warm and cozy log cabins. Perhaps it’s located somewhere near a magical candy cane and gum drop forest, where snowmen come to life and mammals can fly. But what do we really know about the North Pole beyond it being the place where Santa rests his red and white hat? Probably not a lot, since so very few people have actually been there for a visit.
The North Pole is the true north, and where all lines of longitude converge, but there has to be something more about this enigmatic and mythical place beyond directional lines, right? The North Pole is a fascinating place with a storied history that is still evolving.
There is so much amazing trivia about the North Pole that can be used to wow colleagues at a holiday party, impress kids, or to take home a championship trophy at the holiday themed edition of your local pub’s trivia night.
History, geography, and general world knowledge has never been so fun or festive as it is right now! Only here will you learn that The Arctic Monkeys aren’t really rare creatures native to the Arctic Circle, they’re actually a rock band from England with a somewhat misleading name. Popular music aside: Here is everything you ever needed to know about the North Pole.
15. There’s More Than One North Pole
Most of us think about one location with Santa Claus when someone says “the North Pole”, but there are more than one “locations” that can be considered the North Pole. The first North Pole is known as the Geographic North Pole, meaning it is literally the top, most Northern, point on earth. The second is the Magnetic North Pole (or North Pole Dip), which moves around every day with its movements dependent upon the earth’s magnetic field. The third possible pole is known as the geomagnetic North Pole which is calculated mathematically with the main variable being an imaginary line which runs through the geomagnetic centre of the earth. The North Pole, Alaska, was incorporated in 1953 and is a hundred miles south of the other “real” North Poles. Over the past 100 years there has been an enormous migration of the geomagnetic North Pole, moving it from Greenland to Canada.
14. No One Really Owns The North Pole, Not Even Santa
The North Pole is not a continent, while the South Pole is. The North Pole isn’t even a country, since it’s not located on land, but on top of frozen water. Because of this, it is considered international waters. Many Arctic bordering countries such as, Russia, US, Norway, Denmark, and Canada have attempted to claim the area, but have come to a mutual agreement that no one can really post claim on the North Pole and the surrounding areas. In 2007, a Russian submarine placed a Russian flag deep at the bottom of the Arctic Ocean at the Geographic North Pole. However they weren’t the first underwater dwellers to visit the locale, The Americans’ submarine, The USS Nautilus was there first, 50 years earlier in 1958. There is particular financial interest in this area since geological surveys from 2008 revealed that approximately 22 percent of the globe’s unbroached natural gas deposits and oil are underneath the North Pole’s ice.
13. Heading South, No Matter What
If you were to stand on the North Pole, and turned in any direction, you would be facing south since you can’t go any further North from the pole. While you might be standing on what appears to be solid ground, it’s not, it’s actually ice on top of the ocean, which is pretty scary if you think about it. In fact, the nearest landmass is quite far away and approximately 700 miles to the south. The North Pole is on the move, and is gradually migrating towards Russia, getting closer at the snail’s pace of 34 miles each year. The great white north features the Aurora Borealis (also known as the northern lights) which are stunning clouds and rays of colour including: green, red, and blue lights in the night sky. The Aurora Borealis is Latin for “northern dawn” and occurs in an area around the north magnetic pole.
12. It’s Not The Coldest Place In The World
Most people shiver at the mere thought of spending some time way up in the North Pole, but even though it’s bone-chillingly cold, it’s not the coldest place in the world, not by a long shot. The South Pole is much, much colder with winter temperatures averaging -76 degrees Fahrenheit, compared to the coldest temperatures of -45 faced at the North Pole. This temperature difference is experienced because the North Pole barely sits a foot above sea level and the “landscape” is able to absorb some warmth, if you consider -45 warm, from the surrounding ocean, whereas the South Pole has a very high elevation. The South Pole sits on top of a very thick sheet of ice, which is situated atop land, and is 9,000 feet above the sea level. Antarctica is the world’s tallest continent, with much of the cold coming from its extreme heights or elevation.
11. There’s Only One ‘Real’ Santa Claus Village
There are so many amusement parks around the world that cash in on the big fat guy in the red suit, but there is only one Santa Claus Village that is actually located within the perimeter of the Arctic Circle. This winter wonderland is located in Finland, just a few miles north of the city Rovaniemi. The Arctic Circle has a borderline that cuts through the amusement park, and they’ve painted a white line across the border to let all of their visitors know that they’re inside the Arctic Circle. The park has Christmas themed restaurants and attractions, an onsite reindeer family farm, and guests can actually send mail with Santa’s personal postmark. The park opened up its festive doors at the turn of the millennium and boasts being the most spectacular Santa Claus destination in Scandinavia. Guests can stay in a cozy little hotel style cabin in the village or at the Snowman World Igloo Hotel.
10. Attention Runners: There’s A North Pole Marathon
New York City, and Boston can move over, The North Pole has its very own marathon. The marathon has run each year since 2002 and markets itself as “the World’s Coolest Marathon”. Runners face an average wind chill temperature of 22 degrees below zero while competing. This race, held on top of the icy Arctic Ocean, is for those who want to commit time, energy, and a lot of cash. Entry costs over 15 thousand dollars and includes flight, accommodations, helicopter rides to the North Pole Camp where the race is held, medals for those who place well, t-shirts for those who finish, and a DVD that commemorates the race. Runners suit up in thermal layers, need to put on two pairs of socks, and goggles to brave the cold. On April 9, 2016, 56 competitors from 21 different countries raced. This is truly a once in a life time, bucket list-worthy event for competitive runners.
9. So What’s It Like Up There?
The North Pole area is a shifting ice cap that floats above the Arctic Ocean. The ice is two to three meters thick and sits above the ocean which is around 4,000 meters deep. The size of the Ice grows depending on the season– in the winter it expands greatly and is roughly the size of the US, while over the summer, about half of the ice melts. While this seasonal change in volume of arctic ice is normal, the ice cap is shrinking because of global warming. In January, the temperature varies between -45 to -15 degrees Fahrenheit, whereas during the “warmer” summer months it’s a lot closer to freezing, hence the melting ice. The countries surrounding the Arctic Circle have six months of constant daylight and another six months of darkness because of the angle the most Northern part of the earth is to the sun.
8. So, Who Lives There? Besides Santa…
Santa, Mrs. Claus, the elves, and reindeer aren’t the only residents of the Arctic Circle. Most people consider the frigid weather to be unbearable, but there are some who have made the area their home. Native Inuit tribes live in northern Canada and Alaska, just around the bend from St. Nick. The outer regions of the Arctic Circle are home to polar bears. Other life in the region includes the Orca, Humpback, and Beluga whales, the arctic fox, wolverines, squirrels, walrus, and Svalbard reindeer. While these animals live in the Arctic Circle, they don’t usually go much further North than 82 degrees because there isn’t a consistent supply of food there. Despite what some people think, polar bears don’t eat penguins. This isn’t because they don’t want to, it’s because there are no penguins at the North Pole, and there are no polar bears in the South Pole (home of the penguins). There are several flying penguinish birds who call the Arctic Circle home including: auks, guillemots, and puffins.
7. You Can Swim There
Swimming in the Arctic waters is one heck of a polar bear dip, but during the summer months, there is enough room to dive in and have a little swim. In 2007, an Englishman named Lewis Gordon Pugh decided to swim along a crack in the ice to the North Pole. The water was measured at 28.7 degrees Fahrenheit that day and Lewis was in the water for nearly 19 minutes. Despite it being a once in a lifetime experience, Lewis said it wasn’t fun and told the BBC, “The pain was immediate and felt like my body was on fire, I was in excruciating pain from beginning to end and I nearly quit on a few occasions.”. Travel by water around the North Pole could become more common, even by boat, because of global warming. There is some debate as to when the shrinking ice cap could make a boat route possible, but if it occurs many ships could shave 4,000 miles off their current trips from Europe to Asia.
6. The Unicorn Of The Sea
Santa isn’t the only legend of the North Pole. The myths we hear about unicorns actually come from a creature who calls the North Pole its home. The Narwhal is a small whale that lives in the Arctic Circle. One of the things that makes the Narwhal so “magical” is its giant tusk which juts out from a canine tooth. The tusk can measure on average from six to ten feet long! This magnificent tusk is what has people calling the whale “the unicorn of the sea”. In the 16th century it was believed that, much like elephant tusks, the narwhals had powers that could cure diseases. In fact, it is believed that Queen Elizabeth I once spent 10,000 pounds (think about how high that number would be with inflation) to get her very own narwhal tusk. Unfortunately Narwhal populations are shrinking because of climate change and hunting with around 75,000 narwhals alive today.
5. It Doesn’t Have A Time Zone
Many of the things we take for granted in our homeland isn’t the case in the North Pole. We already talked about how the North Pole isn’t a continent and doesn’t really belong to anyone, but how about this: it has no time zones. The reason for this is because the sun only rises and sets one time each year. The sun is above the horizon for 187 days during the summer months, and for 178 days during the winter the sun is always below the horizon. Since there is also no permanent human population living in the area, there has never been a time zone assigned. Visitors can simply use their own preferred time zone while exploring the great white north.
4. The Ultimate Vacation Destination?
It’s not just marathon runners who want to visit the North Pole. For a pretty penny, anyone can begin their own adventure way up north. There are cruises where visitors can enjoy the picturesque views. In the summer guests can watch polar bears and walruses hunt and experience arctic flora native to the region bloom. People who want to warm up from the cold can visit a natural geothermal hot spring that is located in a rock lake and surrounded by the beauty of the area’s nature. The Chena Hot Springs are about an hour away from Fairbanks and open from 7AM until midnight, and are a great location for tourists to watch the Aurora Borealis. The northern lights are said to be most magnificent between August and May. Guests can stay in a luxury room at the resort or “rough it” in a Mongolian-style yurt to get the full Arctic experience.
3. The North Pole Could Flip
Ever worry about a world where everything is upside down? Well, the North and South Pole could actually flip. From time to time, the magnetic poles can actually flip. The last time they flipped was around 780,000 years ago and it takes many thousands of years for the poles to flip. Despite the chaos people may believe this could cause, it would not be catastrophic to humanity. If the poles were to flip, a number of technologies would need to be tweaked to reflect the change. Additionally, there is a chance that humans could be less protected from the suns’ harmful rays, meaning more sunscreen and higher instances of skin cancer. There would be plenty of time for humans to prepare for this flip, in fact the magnetic field on earth is weakening, which could be a sign that a flip will happen in a couple of thousand years.
There are nights known as White Nights within the 15 or 16 days before and after the annual sunrise and sunset at the North Pole. During the summer months, when the sun is out for 24 hours a day it is known as the midnight sun. During the winter months when there is no sun, the dark hours when it’s light outside elsewhere in the world are called Polar Days. In the North Pole you can see the moon for two weeks each month. Even though Norway is known as “the land of the midnight sun” within the travel industry there is midnight sun in the other countries that are closest to the North Pole including USA, Canada, Russia, Greenland, Finland, and Sweden. The name Arctic is Greek in origin and means ‘near the bear’. We’re assuming this has to do with Mr. Polar Bear!
1. World’s Longest Migration
By now everyone’s heard about the March of the Penguins, but what about the super long journey of the Arctic tern? Not quite as catchy, eh? The tiny bird is mostly white and grey with a black cap on its head and a bright orange/red beak, and is also known as Sterna paradisaea. The stern embarks on the longest migration in the entire world. The bird travels from near the North Pole, all the way down to near the South Pole. The stern will breed in the North Pole, but will migrate south during the Northern Hemisphere’s winter, making his way all the way south to the very edges of the Antarctic ice. This journey, which happens every single year, is around 35,000 kilometers (or 21,750 miles) long. This flight distance is considered about the same as flying all the way around the world.