5 Fun Facts About the North Pole

Christmas is coming, and millions of children all over the world are busy writing letters addressed to Santa's Workshop at 1 North Pole Way. The hidden location of Santa's workshop is, however, just one of the North Pole's many mysteries. Its icy, inhospitable landscape at the top of the world has captured the imaginations of explorers, artists, scholars and adventurers for centuries, and scientists are still hunting for new discoveries that have lain hidden beneath the ice for eons. While we would never dream of revealing the secret location of Santa's workshop, here are five other fun facts about the North Pole that you can use to impress folks at your family or classroom Christmas party!

  • Visual aid of how to complete 1. There's No Land at the North Pole

    It may surprise you to learn that the North Pole is not a land mass. Technically, it's more like a really big iceberg than an island. It's physical mass is made of massive ice floes, six to ten feet thick, that float on the surface of the Arctic Ocean. Below the ice, the ocean stretches to depths of 13,400 feet. That's so deep that you could stack 10 Empire State Buildings on top of each other without reaching the surface!

  • Visual aid of how to complete 2. Sun Rise At The North Pole Happens Once A Year

    Picture the Earth spinning on its axis like a top. Sunrise occurs in the morning, when the part of Earth that you live on spins towards the sun. Sunset happens in the evening, as your section of the Earth spins away from the sun. Since the North Pole is located at the very top of the planet, its position relative to the sun doesn't change as the planet spins. That means the North Pole sees only one sunrise a year!

    At the North Pole, the sun rises during the spring equinox in March, followed by six months of perpetual daylight. The sun then sets during the autumnal equinox in September, followed by six months of perpetual darkness. Over the course of a single day, the sun appears to circle the North Pole without ever dipping below the horizon. This strange phenomenon occurs because the Earth orbits the sun on a slanted axis. From March to September, the north pole tilts to face the sun, then from September to March it tilts the other way.

  • Visual aid of how to complete 3. It Took 100 Years to "Discover" The North Pole

    In 1827, a British naval officer named William Edward Parry set off on one of the earliest expeditions to discover the North Pole, but he failed to reach it. Many 19th century explorers set out to succeed where Parry had failed, but all of these attempts ended early due to disease, frostbite, starvation, and disaster. Then, in 1908, two explorers claimed to reach the North Pole at roughly the same time. Frederick Cook claimed to be the first explorer to reach the poll but he was challenged by fellow explorer Robert Peary, who claimed that Cook had miscalculated and it was, in fact, Peary's team who had "discovered" the pole. Historians dispute both these accounts however, due to generally poor or unbelievable record keeping. Today, credit for the "discovery" of the North Pole goes to a Norwegian explorer named Roald Amundsen, who reached the North Pole in an airship on May 12th, 1926, nearly 100 years after William Edward Parry first attempted the voyage.

  • Visual aid of how to complete 4. The North Pole Marathon

    Imagine, for a moment, running 26.2 miles over snow and ice in temperatures as low as -40℉ through freezing winds gusting up to 10 miles per hour. If that sounds like fun to you, then you might want to sign up for the annual North Pole Marathon! Yes, that's right, since 2003 the North Pole has hosted an annual marathon in April that attracts some of the world's most extreme athletes. Those who participate must find inventive ways of preparing for the rugged conditions, with some athletes going so far as to train in industrial freezers to simulate the sub-zero temperatures.

  • Visual aid of how to complete 5. The First Map of the North Pole is 500 Years Old!

    The picture above is a reproduction of the earliest known map of the North Pole, called the Septentrionalium Terrarum. While this reproduction is from 1606, the original was drawn in 1569 by the early Flemish cartographer Gerardus Mercator, who is more commonly known for creating the Mercator Projection: The method used to straighten the curved latitudinal and longitudinal lines on a globe so they can be accurately translated to a flat, two-dimensional map. If you've ever seen that map in school that makes it look like Greenland is as big as Africa, you can thank Mercator for that.

    The funny thing about this map of the North Pole, is that it's almost entirely made up. Since nobody had yet traveled to the North Pole in the early 16th century, Mercator drew his map based on second hand accounts from heavily exaggerated travel journals. Mercator's version of the North Pole bears little resemblance to the real thing. In this map, four distinct landmasses are separated by channels of water that flow into a massive whirlpool centered around a giant magnetic rock. One of these four islands was said, according to Mercator, to be home to a mysterious race of four foot tall Pygmies. Perhaps the original homeland of Santa's elves? Though this map wouldn't help you traverse the actual North Pole, it's a fascinating glimpse into the many mysteries the people of the 16th century imagined waited for them at the North Pole.

  • If you liked these fun facts about the North Pole and enjoy learning about exciting places and interesting cultures all over the world, then you should check out our Atlas crates filled with fun games and interesting educational activities designed to help you travel the globe from the comfort of your living room.

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