The top and bottom of our planet are fascinating places. They are known for extreme freezing temperatures and man has soldiered to the point of death to reach the exact points of the Poles. Some of the marine and animal life in these areas have survived for millions of years in these temperatures and as the conditions have changed little, they are some of the oldest creatures on the planet.
The ice contained in the poles is of great interest to scientists who study its composition and size and use their findings to monitor the state of the world’s atmosphere. There are parts of the Poles that have a surface and atmosphere similar to those in space, so they provide useful research locations for planned missions into the galaxy.
Because of the difficulty of navigating the frozen icy regions of the Poles, there are many areas that are yet undiscovered, but it is believed that the North Pole holds riches in terms of reserves of natural resources. As no country officially ‘owns’ the Pole, this has caused international tensions between the competing nations.
The Poles remain a constant source of fascination to explorers and scientists. So much more remains to be learned about these unique environments that hold secrets and treasures beyond our imagination.
25 North Pole: A Russian Flag at the Bottom of the Sea
In 2007 a Russian submarine delved beneath the terrestrial north pole and planted a Russian flag there to stake their claim of being there. However, an American submarine had beaten them to it, planting a US flag deep in the Arctic Ocean via the USS Nautilus in 1958.
Russia is one of the countries that wants to stake a claim to the rich natural reserves of the North Pole, and the symbolic flag placing made this claim official. The flag was placed on the Lomonosov Ridge, which Russia claims is directly attached to its own continent.
24 North Pole: Holds 20 Percent of the Earth’s Undiscovered Oil and Gas Reserves
In 2008, a US Geologic survey declared that 20 percent of the earth’s natural gas and oil reserves were located at the North Pole, as yet undiscovered by man. This could stand the earth in good stead for the future as the resources of oil and gas that have already been discovered are being depleted.
Several countries are now fighting over the resources as they offer a valuable economic resource for the country that claims them. Russia, Canada, Norway, Denmark, and the United States have all staked a claim to the resources. Who will win out remains to be seen.
23 North Pole: Different Seasons
Although we have an image of the North Pole as a permanently icy region with freezing temperatures, it does have seasonal changes in temperature. The warmest time of the year is July, when the Pole is merely freezing, at 32 degrees ℉.
By February, the temperature drops to minus 31 degrees below zero and is in complete darkness. The sun rises again during the spring equinox in March, and as the sun rises to its highest point, the North Pole remains in sunlight throughout its summer, dipping into twilight in September. By October it is back in the darkness, which will last through to February the following year.
22 North Pole: Two North Poles
The North Pole is a mass of ice with no land at all, unlike its southern brother. This means that the ice can shrink and expand. The terrestrial North Pole is the point to which land travelers aim when they strive to reach the North Pole. This point is literally the top of the globe.
There is also the magnetic North Pole that changes with the earth’s movement deep within its crust and is magnetically based. The distance between the two poles can vary by up to 80 kilometers each year.
21 North Pole: An Annual Marathon
Since 2002 there has been a marathon across the North Pole each year. The determined runners need to prepare themselves for temperatures of around minus twenty-two degrees!
In 2011, 255 people competed in the North Pole marathon. Competitors had to really dress up for the event, donning goggles, multiple pairs of socks and gloves to race the 26.2 miles across the ice. Runners have to be extremely fit to take on this challenge, both mentally and physically, but when they finish, they will feel and be on top of the world!
20 North Pole: No Time Zone
The sun only rises and sets once a year at the North Pole, so there is little opportunity to sit and watch the sunset. This phenomenon means that the North Pole has no time zone. Of course, this plays into the hands of Father Christmas, who is not restricted by time zones when it comes to delivering his gifts!
Those traveling to the North Pole by ship tend to use their local time zone to gauge what time it is, while those who are studying the Poles in research stations will use the most local time zone to their location.
19 North Pole: No Penguins
There are no penguins at the North Pole, so any depiction of Santa being followed around by penguins is factually inaccurate. However, the Pole is home to the polar bear. The bears are threatened by the melting ice at the North Pole, as global warming reduces its size year by year.
If penguins lived in the North Pole, they would be gobbled up by the polar bears, who struggle to find food among ice holes. They are able to swim through the freezing ocean to claim their prey as well, feeding mainly on fish and seals.
18 North Pole: Birds
There are birds that can thrive in the chilly conditions of the North Pole. They evidently enjoy a freezing environment, as each year they migrate to the South Pole for their holiday. They cut down the distance of over 20,000 miles to just over 12,000 by diverting their route via a loop.
Birds, animals and even humans live within the Arctic Circle, although humans cannot live at the actual North Pole as it is too cold. A tribe of Inuits resides within the Circle in Alaska and Canada. Bears and reindeer thrive within the Arctic Circle, as well and orca and humpback whales live happily in the freezing waters around the North Pole.
17 North Pole: No Land
The North Pole is just ice, there is no land there at all. The packed ice is two to three meters thick and shifts rather than being stable. It sits 4,000 meters above the Arctic Ocean seabed.
The North Pole is, in fact, a section of frozen ocean. It is capable of moving slightly during the year as it melts and refreezes and shifts on the earth’s axis. It is hard for any animal or vegetation to survive in a purely icy environment, which is why the South Pole has more flora and fauna. However, the sea life is rich and varied in the deep, freezing ocean around the Arctic.
16 North Pole: Permanent Darkness for Six Months of the Year
Because of the way the earth tilts on its axis to allow light onto the Pole, there are six months of the year when the North Pole is in total darkness. In accordance with other countries within the Arctic Circle, this means that the opposite six months of the year have permanent if chilly, daylight.
In fact, for one day of the year there is entire darkness and for one day there is total sunshine, another odd result of the earth’s tilt in the area. This phenomenon gives the North Pole its name of the Land of the Midnight Sun, as the sun can be seen low in the sky, during the midnight hour.
15 North Pole: Santa Claus!
We all know that Santa lives at the North Pole, surrounded by his helpful elves. Unsurprisingly, his postal address (as defined by the Canadian Postal Service), is HOH OHO.
Of course, it is a very private part of the world, but visitors can visit Santa at one of his residencies within the Arctic Circle. The elves even maintain websites to keep children up to date on what Santa and his reindeer are up to in their snowy homes. While Santa is traditionally known to live in the North Pole, a little artistic license means he is closer to Finland than the magnetic Pole.
14 North Pole: Shifting Size Throughout the Year
The ice of the North Pole melts and refreezes throughout the year. In the winter the Pole is the same size as the United States, but halves in size in the summer. There is concern about the quantity of ice in the North Pole, as it has been decreasing over recent decades as a result of global warming.
The size of the ice seems to be reducing year on year, compared to the South Pole where the ice seems to be increasing. While the ice at the North Pole grows as the seasons grow colder each year, the amount of ice that is formed is reducing year on year.
13 North Pole: It Has Much Less Ice than the South Pole
As noted, the North Pole is just a mass of ice, while the South Pole combines ice and land. Scientists believe that eventually, the ice at the north pole could disappear altogether without any land to anchor it. The current around the Antarctic Ocean cuts it off from the warmer waters of surrounding oceans, maintaining its freezing temperatures. Since stations were set up in the South Pole to observe the continent, no temperature above minus 9.9 degrees centigrade has ever been recorded.
The North Pole benefits from the warmer seas around it, hence it is warmer and has less ice than its southern counterpart.
12 North Pole: It is a Frozen Ocean Not a Continent
As there is no land at the North Pole, it cannot be classified as a continent. This is unlike the South Pole, which does contain land. The South Pole, therefore, forms part of the continent called Antarctica.
The point we call the North Pole sits on what is in effect a floating ice sheet. It is just a frozen section of the surrounding ocean, albeit a very large section. The ice in the Arctic is incredibly thick and the sea beneath it is over 4,000 feet deep. The nearest land is around 450 miles away in Greenland.
11 North Pole: Narwhals or ‘Unicorns of the Sea’
Obviously, we all know that unicorns exist above the sea, even if they are very shy and keep themselves to themselves. However, their sea-dwelling cousins are not so reticent. The Unicorn of the Sea or Narwhal lives in the Arctic Ocean and seems happy to be photographed by divers.
Officially classed as a minor whale, the narwhal lives most of its life in the Arctic Ocean. The tusk that gives it the impression of being related to the unicorn, is one of the narwhal’s teeth, and it can grow to a length of ten feet.
10 South Pole: Massive Hole In The Ozone Above
Referred to as a ‘hole,’ the break in the ozone above Antarctica is a thinning of the ozone layers above the South Pole. It occurs once a year between September and November and causes a 60 percent reduction in the ozone of the region.
The weather conditions in the South Pole regions mean that the ozone is threatened in the atmosphere above, and scientists are concerned that environmental issues have caused the weakening in the layers. The impact on wildlife in the area could be catastrophic as many creatures are designed to survive without the harsh ultraviolet rays that the ozone prevents from coming through.
9 South Pole: No Polar Bears
There are no polar bears in the South Pole, but there are penguins. They are one of the few creatures able to survive in the extreme temperatures. The Emperor penguin can survive in the Antarctic all year round but is one of the only creatures able to cope with the freezing conditions.
This four-foot tall creature lives on the ice sheet rather than the rocky land. They breed once a year, the female laying the egg and then leaving the male to look after the egg while she seeks food. She then returns to feed the chick and the male goes off to take his turn to look for sustenance for the new baby.
8 South Pole: Coldest Ever Recorded Temperature on Earth -89 Degrees C
The average temperature is around minus fifty degrees Centigrade. However, the lowest temperature on earth was recorded here in 1983 at -89.6 degrees Centigrade by the Russian Vostok station. The highest temperature ever recorded in the South Pole was 14.6 degrees centigrade in 1974.
Because it is mostly ice and because it is so cold, Antarctica is the only continent on earth that has no indigenous human population. However, there are plenty of people around, there are numerous scientists and researchers who make the Antarctic their temporary home for months at a time.
7 South Pole: It is a Continent as it Contains Land
Although the Antarctic is classed as a continent because it contains land, the land is actually only 300 feet thick, whereas the ice is 9000 feet thick. It is geographically considered to be a desert as there is no precipitation and the humidity is fairly constant during the whole year, at zero!
Antarctica is also the highest continent, rising to an average of 7,500 feet, compared with North America which has an average elevation of 2,362 feet. The very highest point rises to nearly 22,500 feet above sea level.
6 South Pole: Polar Vortex
If a polar vortex occurs, other countries can brace themselves for unusually cold snaps of weather as a result. The very strong cold winds that are caused by the vortex are usually contained within the Antarctic area. However, sometimes, the vortex breaks down a little and the freezing winds and temperatures leak out and travel to other parts of the world.
If the vortex is contained within the polar regions, then they have little effect on other countries, but if little inconsistencies in the vortex edges occur, then the winds can travel to other areas and bring arctic conditions to nearby countries.