The North Pole is the northernmost point on the planet. It’s the exact spot where the Earth’s axis and surface meet. All directions are south of the North Pole. Its latitude is 90 degrees north, and all lines of longitude converge there (in addition to at the South Pole, on the other side of Earth).
Polaris, the current North Star, is situated directly above Earth’s North Pole.
Since the Earth rotates on its axis and revolves around the Sun, it makes for a slow journey to travel to the earth’s North or the South Pole.
The Arctic Ocean surrounds the North Pole, few humans have visited it due to icy conditions and limited daylight hours in the winter months.
The North Pole is located in the middle of the Arctic Ocean, which is almost always ice-covered.
The ice blankets approximately 2 to 3 meters (6 to 10 feet) of water. The depth of the sea at the North Pole is more than 4,000 meters (13,123 feet). Nunavut, Canada’s northernmost territory, is situated north of the Arctic Circle.
The North Pole is considerably warmer than the South Pole.
Because it is located in the middle of a seaside, which is warmer than Antarctica’s ice-covered continent, it has a lower elevation (sea level) and is closer to the equator.
However, it isn’t quite beach weather. In the summer months, when temperatures are at their highest, the temperature generally rises to no higher than 10 degrees Celsius.
Who discovered the north pole?
Although the North Pole has been largely inaccessible to humans, people have long sailed or trekked by dogsled, foot and boat to reach it.
The earliest explorers of the Arctic regions likely reached what is now called the North Pole sometime between 500 A.D. and 300 B.C., although this date is hard to verify due to a lack of written records during this period.
The first documented journey to the North Pole was made in the 850s by a Viking explorer named Ulfsson, who sailed from Iceland but got lost and never returned.
In 1409, Irish sailors were believed to have reached 82 degrees north latitude before being driven off course again by unfavorable weather.
In 1577, the English explorer Martin Frobisher left England in search of a northwest passage to Asia. He spent two years sailing around the Canadian Arctic, but never found the route he sought, leading him to conclude that there was no such waterway.
However, Frobisher did bring back reports of “Gold ore that groweth like unto half spoons, and…farre richer.” These reports inspired several later expeditions to the area, but none were able to find Frobisher’s gold or a northwest passage.
In 1607 English explorer Henry Hudson began an ill-fated search for the Northwest Passage.
In 1609 he made it as far as present-day Albany, New York. He then sailed up the river that now bears his name, hoping to find a route to Asia, but instead became embroiled in Native American conflicts between the Iroquois and Algonquins.
Near present-day Churchill, Hudson’s crew mutinied. Hudson was cast adrift and never seen again.
In 1773 British Naval captain James Cook was dispatched to find the Northwest Passage. He made it to northern Alaska but was forced to turn back when his ships became trapped in ice.
The first serious attempt at reaching the North Pole consisted of American Charles Francis Hall, Danish explorer Ejnar Mikkelsen and British explorers Frederick George Jackson and William Penny.
They left in 1868 but were unable to make it beyond Greenland.
The first successful expedition to reach the North Pole was led by American sailor Cmdr. Robert Peary.
He left New York in July 1897 with a crew of 41 aboard the ship Roosevelt, bound for Smith Sound at the northernmost tip of Greenland.
Once there he made two attempts to cross over the ice but made it only as far as 87 degrees 45 minutes north latitude.
On his third attempt, Peary reached an ice sheet that he felt was thick enough to support his weight. He and his crew built a small home dubbed “The Inn” on top of the ice, with their ship placed in its center for stability.
In April 1908, Peary and his men left the Roosevelt to begin their trek. They had a personal reindeer herd of more than 100 animals, which proved a useful source of food along the way.
The group reached the North Pole on April 6, 1909. There were no other witnesses present to verify where they actually reached, but Peary and his crew planted a U.S. flag on the spot and named it “Camp Jesup.”
Ecosystems in the North Pole
The North Pole is a unique biome that contains a wide variety of ecosystems in a small area. These include
- The Arctic tundra
- Ice sheets and icebergs
- Saltwater lakes and ponds
- Freshwater lakes and rivers
- Land-fast sea ice
- Drifting snowfields (also called “drift ice”)
- Open water (the Arctic Ocean)
- Open water beneath sea ice (the Atlantic Ocean)
Vegetation is scarce in the tundra, as it consists mostly of mosses, lichens and grasses. However, there are some trees that grow near the coasts and inland areas.
The coastal tundra has a maritime climate with cold winters and cool summers. Average summer temperatures are between 8 and 10 degrees Celsius, while winter temperatures hover between -22 and -12 degrees Celsius.
The inland tundra has a harsh climate with very cold winters, even colder than the coastal region, while the summers are short and mild.
The ice sheets of the North Pole cover an area of about 5,000,000 square kilometers. They are permanently frozen lakes and rivers that form on the surface of glaciers.
Their thickness varies according to their proximity to land masses or bodies of water.
Glaciers extend from the ice sheets into colder regions toward landmasses such as Canada and Russia toward the country’s coastal areas.
In the summer, when the ice recedes to a certain point, deep valleys are formed that contain saltwater lakes and ponds in which organisms live.
This is sea ice that moves in a clockwise direction within a specific region of the Arctic Ocean called the Beaufort Gyre.
It is known for its exceedingly slow movement, which is about 3 kilometers per day, toward the North Pole. Drift ice can be very thick and therefore difficult to pass through on foot or by boat.
It is frozen seawater that contains algae and bacteria, thus supporting life for some organisms.
Land-Fast Sea Ice
This is sea ice tied to land within regions of the Arctic Ocean called the Beaufort Gyre. It is typically thick, between 1 and 3 meters, with levels varying greatly depending on its distance from landmasses.
Open Water (The Arctic Ocean)
This refers to water underneath sea ice that has melted or broken off in chunks. Although it remains frozen for most of the year, this section of water melts during the summer months.
Open Water Below Sea Ice (The Atlantic Ocean)
This refers to water beneath or just beneath sea ice that has melted or broken off in chunks. Because it is not entirely frozen, organisms such as bacteria and algae have a greater chance of surviving in this environment.
Resources and Territorial Claims
The most important resources in the North Pole are petroleum and natural gas, which have been known to exist in significant quantities since the early 1950s.
The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea states that nations with coasts in the Arctic Ocean are allowed exclusive economic rights over an area 200 nautical miles from their shoreline. This point is called the exclusive economic zone, which can be used to support territorial claims over the North Pole.
Russia, Denmark (Greenland), Canada and Norway have all claimed part of the North Pole’s territory.
The North Pole is a unique region of the world, as it hosts many different ecosystems in a small area. These include tundra, glaciers, ice caps and icebergs, saltwater lakes and ponds, freshwater lakes and rivers, land-fast sea ice, drift ice and open water (the Arctic Ocean).
Resources such as petroleum and natural gas make the North Pole an important region of study, while its unique geology and hydrology remain largely unexplored.