The North Pole is one of the most misunderstood places on the planet. Sometimes confused with Antarctica, the North Pole is often thought of as the place where Santa Claus lives with his elves, his reindeer, and Mrs. Claus. Children dream of one day visiting the North Pole and imagine a cold land of ice where candy canes mark the streets and elves bustle about.
In reality, the North Pole is quite different from what most people believe. The North Pole is not really the place where Santa lives. In fact, it’s not a land at all.
Check out these 10 facts you didn’t know about the real North Pole.
10 The North Pole Has No Time Zone
The North Pole, which is the northernmost point on the planet and shouldn’t be confused with the Magnetic North Pole, has no time zone. Live Science explains that because all longitudinal lines begin from the North Pole, and every direction away from there points south, it doesn’t have a time zone.
That has to be pretty confusing for people visiting. That, combined with the fact that sometimes the North Pole is dark for a whole 24 hours while other times there is sunlight for an entire day, is enough to give anyone quite a headache!
9 It Is Not The Coldest Place On Earth
When we think of the North Pole, we tend to think of snow, ice, polar bears, igloos, and Santa (but more on that later). Everyone knows it’s cold, but few people know that the North Pole is not the coldest place on the planet. Actually, the South Pole in Antarctica is officially colder than the North Pole.
The main reason for this is that the South Pole is based on land, whereas the North Pole is based on water, which means it’s naturally warmer. Still, warmer, in this case, doesn’t mean warm. In summer, the North Pole’s average temperature is 32 F. In the winter, it’s minus 40.
8 Several Creatures Live At The North Pole
Polar bears aren’t the only creatures found at the North Pole. You won’t see Arctic foxes or caribou but you will find a collection of sea creatures under the ice. These include shrimp, sea anemones, Arctic cod and other species of fish, and crustaceans.
Certain creatures have been spotted at the North Pole, but they don’t typically make it their home. These include whales and ring seals. There are also a variety of birds that migrate to the North Pole every year, including the snow bunting and the Arctic tern.
7 It Is Dark For Six Months At A Time
The North Pole is unique in that it doesn’t have a time zone, but that’s not the only element that sets is apart from most other regions. Rather than experiencing one sunrise and one sunset every 24 hours, the North Pole experiences one sunrise a year and one sunset a year. In other words, once the sun rises, it permanently stays light for six months. And then once it sets, it permanently stays dark until the sun rises again six months later.
This is because of the planet Earth’s tilted axis. Kind of hard for Santa and his elves to get to work in the perpetual darkness, isn’t it?
6 The North Pole Does Not Belong To Any Country
One of the most common questions asked about the North Pole is what country does it belong to? In actual fact, no country officially owns the North Pole. It is considered to belong to international waters. Geographically, the closest countries are Canada and Denmark (via Greenland).
There are villages and towns known as the North Pole, but these aren’t the real North Pole. There is a village in Alaska called the North Pole, and the Canadian postal service claims to deliver letters to Santa at the North Pole. But the real geographical North Pole is beyond the reach and ownership of all countries.
5 Santa’s Workshop Isn’t Actually There
Yes, this is heartbreaking. Unfortunately, Santa doesn’t live at the North Pole and his workshop isn’t there either. How do we know this? Well, the North Pole is made of ice floating over the Arctic Ocean. As the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association explain, there is no land there. The Christmas movies lied to us. Santa couldn’t build his workshop in the North Pole.
Don’t get us wrong - Santa definitely exists! Some believe that his real house and workshop are in other northern regions where it’s still freezing and there are still reindeer, like villages in Finland or Alaska.
4 It's Different From The South Pole
Some people are under the impression that the North Pole and the South Pole are pretty much the same, just located on opposite ends of the Earth. Even though they’re both extremely cold, they are by no means identical.
As we pointed out, the North Pole is over water while the South Pole is land-based in Antarctica. According to The Washington Post, the type of creatures that live in each region also vary. While polar bears are found in the North Pole, penguins are found in the South.
3 There Exists A North Pole Marathon
Just in case regular marathons were not difficult enough, the North Pole Marathon is a very real event that takes place each year. Competitors from all over the world flock to the ice of the North Pole to represent their country and race against the other contestants.
There is a steep entry fee of over $15,500, but that includes accommodation in Greenland, flights to the North Pole camp, and helicopter flights while in the region. Because they’re competing in such tough conditions, participants typically rug up in layers upon layers of thermal, windproof clothing.
2 You Can Visit The North Pole
The North Pole may boast harsh conditions that many people wouldn’t dare take on, but the area can definitely still be included in your travel plans. If people can have marathons in the North Pole, then you can travel there!
There are several tours available, many based in the surrounding countries of Alaska, Norway, or Greenland. Many of the tours also take the form of cruises, where you can spend days sailing through the Arctic Sea and crossing the geographic North Pole. If you want to see polar bears, the best time to go is in June and July.
1 There Are Still Laws There
Just because the North Pole does not belong to any country does not mean that it’s not subject to any laws. Actually, the North Pole is governed by international laws that apply to all oceans. That means that the same rules apply with regard to fishing and whaling.
Scientists are also free to conduct studies at the North Pole and gather as much research and information about it as they can. Although many scientists want to study the region, the weather and conditions sometimes make this a little tricky!