North Pole

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Position of the different north poles (magnetic pole: calculation for 2020)
The polar region from the direction of the earth's axis (sea ice removed in image editing)

In common parlance, the North Pole is the northernmost point on earth . It corresponds to the northern pivot point of the earth's axis and is also known as the geographic north pole . There is also the arctic magnetic pole and the arctic geomagnetic pole .

Geographical location

Currently, the three poles are the northern hemisphere at each definition in the Arctic Ocean (including the Arctic Ocean called) or on its islands. As the earth's magnetic field shifts , the position of the arctic magnetic pole and the arctic geomagnetic pole changes .

The three poles of the northern hemisphere

Geographic North Pole

The geographic north pole (1) is the northernmost point on earth and, according to the definition of the geographic pole, the intersection of the earth's axis with the northern surface of the earth. The geographic north pole is the antipode of the geographic south pole and has a fixed position at the geographic latitude of 90 ° 0 ′  N. Coordinates: 90 ° 0 ′ 0 ″  N , which generally applies to celestial bodies with an axis of rotation. Thus, the horizontal view from here is only in one direction: to the south. The North Pole does not have a clear longitude. However, this only applies to the point and not to the viewing direction, which is unambiguous. The geographic North Pole lies on the North American Plate , but not on the mainland , but on a 2 to 3 m thick floating ice sheet. Below is the Arctic Ocean, which is 4087 m deep at this point.

Press ice ridge at the Geographic North Pole, April 17, 1990

The seabed was first reached here in 2007 by a Russian research expedition. Near the zenith is above the geographic North Pole the Polar Star in only 42 'Distance (2008) and the sun is here from March 21 to September 23, not ( polar day ). This is followed by slow sunset, several weeks of twilight , several months of polar night , several weeks of dawn and slow sunrise .

Since the position of the earth's axis shifts in the long term, the geographic North Pole is by no means tied to a specific location. There is a close connection between this long-term movement of the geographic North Pole and the mass redistribution in the context of global warming . Geodetic observations of the polar movement from space show that after a prolonged movement towards western Greenland , the average annual polar position began to drift eastwards from around 2005, an abrupt departure from the drift direction observed in the last century. Gravity measurements with the help of satellites show that around 90% of this change can be attributed to the accelerated melting of ice sheets and mountain glaciers and the associated rise in sea levels.

In August 1958, the USS Nautilus (SSN-571) reached the North Pole.

Arctic magnetic pole

The arctic magnetic pole (2) is that point in the northern hemisphere where the magnetic field lines of the earth's magnetic field enter the earth vertically to the earth's surface. In the physical sense, it is a magnetic south pole.

The usual compasses, the needle of which can only be rotated around the vertical axis, can no longer align themselves to the north within the radius of around 2000 km around the magnetic pole, because the horizontal component of the earth's magnetic field is too weak there for the display. A compass specially designed for such measurements  - similar to a ship's compass - points vertically downwards at the magnetic north pole according to the laws of magnetism with its "north" marking.

The Arctic magnetic pole was discovered on June 1, 1831 by James Clark Ross near Cape Adelaide, Boothia Peninsula , Canada ; At that time, the coordinates were 70 ° 5 '  N , 96 ° 28'  W.

During an expedition of the Geological Survey of Canada in 2001, his position was determined and the annual migration up to 2005 was extrapolated. In April 2007 the position was redefined:

Arctic Magnetic Pole Migration
year Geographic coordinates
1996 78 ° 35 ′ 42 "  N , 104 ° 11 ′ 54"  W.
2001 81.3 °  N , 110.8 °  W
2002 81.6 °  N , 111.6 °  W
2003 82 °  N , 112.4 °  W
2004 82.3 °  N , 113.4 °  W
2005 82.7 °  N , 114.4 °  W
2007 83.95 °  N , 120.72 °  W

The arctic magnetic pole is therefore not fixed, but is constantly shifting according to a multilayered pattern:

From year to year the magnetic pole is shifting in a roughly predictable way. Currently it is migrating around 40 kilometers northwest each year and has left the Canadian islands in the Arctic Ocean. The amount and direction of the annual shift are not constant over the long term.

The arctic magnetic pole moves daily on an elliptical orbit around its central position.

Disturbances in the earth's magnetic field can shift the magnetic pole - as long as the disturbance lasts - by up to 50 km from its central position.

In the course of the earth's history, the earth’s magnetic field has reversed its polarity several times. This polarity reversal could be demonstrated by the alignment of iron deposits in sediments of different depths. Some scientists see the above-mentioned acceleration of the annual shift as an indication of an impending long-term polarity reversal of the earth.

Arctic geomagnetic pole

The arctic geomagnetic pole (3) in the northern hemisphere is a theoretical pole of the earth's irregular magnetic field , which corresponds to the assumption that there is a bar magnet in the center of the earth . It was in 2010 at about 80 ° 1 '  N , 72 ° 13'  W on the Darling Peninsula of Ellesmere Island, which belongs to Canada .

year Geographic coordinates
2008 84.36 °  N , 126.1 °  W
2009 84.7 °  N , 129.25 °  W
2010 85.01 °  N , 132.66 °  W
2011 85.29 °  N , 136.34 °  W
2012 85.53 °  N , 140.29 °  W
2013 85.75 °  N , 144.46 °  W

When comparing the coordinates of the Arctic magnetic pole and the Antarctic magnetic pole, it is noticeable that the two magnetic poles are less exactly opposite each other than the geomagnetic poles. The real difference between the magnetic poles and the geomagnetic poles is that the magnetic poles are determined by measurements and the geomagnetic poles are determined by calculations. The geomagnetic poles are not stationary; they follow a similar movement pattern as the magnetic poles.

Contradiction between the physical and geographical designation of the magnetic pole

Magnet in the interior of the earth

Originally, the end of a magnetite needle pointing in the direction of true north was called the needle's north pole. At that time no one had any knowledge of the mechanism behind it. It was not until much later that it became known that this name, which was adopted from physics, resulted in the earth having a magnetic south pole in the direction of the geographic north pole and the magnetic north pole in the direction of the geographic south pole.

However, the point on the earth's surface where the field lines of the earth's magnetic field enter vertically ( physically understood as "the pole that is the magnetic south pole of the earth") is almost always referred to in geographical contexts as the "magnetic north pole" (understood geographically as : "the magnetic pole that lies in the north"). In order to avoid misunderstandings, the unambiguous geographical terms “Arctic magnetic pole” and “Antarctic magnetic pole” could be used. However, these terms are rarely used (although they make sense in view of the physical polarity change over geological time periods). As a rule, the “magnetic north pole” in a geographical context always refers to the magnetic pole near the geographical north pole.


Signs showing distances from the North Pole to crew members' hometowns; erected on an ice floe at the North Pole on the occasion of its arrival by the Swedish icebreaker Oden and the German research vessel Polarstern on September 6, 1991

According to their own statements, the geographic North Pole was discovered for the first time by the American researchers Robert Edwin Peary and Matthew Henson and the Inughuit Iggiánguaĸ (1883–1918, in Peary's notes Egingwah), Sigdluk (1883–1927, Seeglo) and Uvkujâĸ (1880–1921, Ooqueah) under the leadership of Iggiánguaĸs brother Ôdâĸ (1880–1955, Ootah) on April 6, 1909. However, it is not scientifically proven that this group actually reached the pole. Peary's notes are not sufficiently precise for this and Matthew Henson reports in his memoir that he was shortly before expedition leader Peary at the North Pole and met him there. Together they wanted to clarify the question of who was the first to arrive at the pole. However, this clarification apparently never came about. Peary's Greenlandic companions called the North Pole qimmersoriartorfissuaq , the place where you are forced to eat your dogs.

In addition to the aforementioned, Frederick Cook also claimed to have been the first to reach the North Pole, on April 21, 1908, a year before Peary. Peary then launched a campaign to undermine Cook's credibility. A central part of this campaign was to denounce Cook 's alleged first ascent of Denali as a lie (Cook actually did not climb the mountain). Other inconsistencies also suggest that Cook was never near the North Pole.

Peary's records do not suggest that he was at the North Pole: when he separated from his companions, he was at least 120 km from the Pole; he met them again after only 56 hours. All polar explorers of that time, for example greats like Fridtjof Nansen , considered such a workload to be completely impossible and also denied Peary's alleged previous daily achievements of over 50 km through the pack ice. Peary's credibility fell even further when the US Navy Hydrographic Office was forced to remove five of Peary's related geographic discoveries as nonexistent.

The overflight of the North Pole in 1926 by Umberto Nobile , Roald Amundsen and Lincoln Ellsworth on board the Norge has been proven beyond doubt and is undisputed; also that in 1937 a group of Soviet scientists under the direction of Iwan Papanin flew to the North Pole to build the first polar station North Pole-1 , and entered the vicinity of the pole.

The first person who demonstrably reached the pole on the way across the ice was the American Ralph Plaisted (1927-2008), who in 1968 led a four-person expedition on snowmobiles to the northernmost point on earth. A year later, the British Sir Walter William Herbert reached the North Pole with a dog sled.

The nuclear powered submarine USS Nautilus was the first ship to reach the geographic North Pole on August 3, 1958. On August 17, 1977 around 4:00 a.m. Moscow time , the Soviet atomic icebreaker Arktika reached the North Pole as the first ship to cross water. Hundreds of crew members, scientists and passengers ceremoniously entered the direct polar area. In 1991, after a difficult ice voyage, the first two conventionally powered ships were able to advance to the North Pole: The Swedish icebreaker Oden and the German research vessel Polarstern reached the pole on September 7th during a three-month expedition.

Environment and climate

The two poles of the earth are covered by polar ice caps ; under the ice masses are z. B. subglacial lakes and volcanoes . The polar ice shelves are affected by increasing ice melt as a result of man-made global warming .

Both poles are centers of global weather events within the framework of global teleconnection . B. with the polar vortices in the context of the Arctic oscillation or their influence on the jet stream and their role in the thermohaline circulation of the oceans .

Political status

On August 2, 2007, two Russian Mir submersibles landed on the seabed at the North Pole at a depth of 4261 m and deposited a titanium capsule with the Russian flag there. The aim of the expedition was to collect soil samples in order to support the Russian territorial claims with evidence that the North Pole belongs to the Siberian continental shelf.

Also, Denmark , Canada and Norway could raise territorial claims. In a conversation with the FAZ in 2007, the polar researcher Arved Fuchs described a political-economic race for the North Pole as probable, after all it was about fossil fuels.

Other, trivia

In 2007, British TV reporters Jeremy Clarkson and James May, as well as members of their support team as part of the Top Gear: Polar Special, were the first people to experience the 1996 arctic magnetic pole set in the Polar Challenge at 78 ° 35.7 ′ N , 104 ° 11.9 ′ W ( 78 ° 35 ′ 42 ″  N , 104 ° 11 ′ 54 ″  W ) with a deviation of less than one kilometer by car. They stopped at 78 ° 35 ′ 7 ″  N , 104 ° 11 ′ 9 ″  W , because the target was programmed in their device for position measurement without converting tenths of a minute into seconds. Heavily modified versions of the Toyota Hilux and Toyota Land Cruiser were used for the expedition .

North Pole of Inaccessibility is a term used to designate the most distant point in the Arctic Ocean. It is located at 84 ° 3 '  N , 174 ° 51'  W, about 660 km from the geographic North Pole. Its position can change somewhat as the sea ​​level rises . It was first reached in 1927. There is no mainland below the North Pole of Inaccessibility , only ice and water from the North Polar Sea, which is around 3000 m deep.

North Pole of inaccessibility is a misleading term because it suggests that expeditions to the Arctic would mainly be undertaken from neighboring coasts, which it is not. Poles of inaccessibility have no practical significance. The geographical center of countries is calculated in the same way .


  • Hampton Sides: The Polar Voyage - About an irresistible longing, a grandiose plan and its dramatic end in the ice . Mare Publishing House. ISBN 978-3-86648-243-2 .
  • Frank Berger: Frankfurt and the North Pole - researchers and discoverers in the eternal ice , writings of the Historical Museum, Frankfurt am Main, volume 26, Michael Imhof Verlag Petersberg 2007. ISBN 978-3-86568-285-7 .
  • Fergus Fleming: Ninety degrees north. The Dream of the Pole , Piper, 2004, ISBN 3-492-24205-7 .
  • Lars Schmitz-Eggen: Lost in the pack ice. The 2nd German north polar voyage in 1869/70. Books on Demand, Norderstedt 2007. ISBN 978-3-8334-6877-3 .
  • Christoph Seidler: Arctic Monopoly. The fight for the raw materials of the polar region. Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Munich 2009, ISBN 978-3-421-04415-0 .
  • Heinz Strathmann: On moccasins to the North Pole. The story and background of a cold adventure. 8 years later. Books on Demand, Norderstedt 2008, ISBN 978-3-8370-3133-1 .

Web links

Commons : North Pole  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: North Pole  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wikivoyage: North Pole  Travel Guide

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Wandering of the Geomagnetic Poles . In:, accessed December 30, 2019.
  2. Beyond “Polar Express”: Fast Facts on the Real North Pole. In: National Geographic News. November 4, 2004, archived from the original on February 3, 2012 ; accessed on March 5, 2019 .
  3. ^ A b c Chen, JL, Wilson, CR, Ries, JC, & Tapley, BD (2013). Rapid ice melting drives Earth's pole to the east. Geophysical Research Letters, 40 (11), 2625-2630.
  4. ^ Geomagnetism - North Magnetic Pole. Geological Survey of Canada, January 16, 2008, archived from the original on December 6, 2011 ; Retrieved April 10, 2009 .
  5. LR Newitt, Arnaud Chulliat, J.-J. Orgeval: Location of the North Magnetic Pole in April 2007. (pdf, 3.2 MB) In: Earth Planets Space 61. 2009, pp. 703–710 , accessed on March 5, 2019 (English, abstract ).
  6. Stefan Maus, Susan Macmillan, Susan McLean, Brian Hamilton, Manoj Nair, Alan Thomson, Craig Rollins: The US / UK World Magnetic Model for 2010–2015. (pdf, 20.3 MB) In: National Geophysical Data Center. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration , February 19, 2014, p. 18 , accessed on March 5, 2019 .
  7. ^ Geomagnetic Data: Poles. In: National Geophysical Data Center. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration , January 30, 2015, accessed March 5, 2019 .
  8. Bryan et al. Cherry Alexander: Eskimo - hunter of the far north. (from the English by Susanne Stephan) Belser, Stuttgart, Zurich 1993, ISBN 3-7630-2210-4 . P. 6.
  9. ^ A b Hermann Heinz Wille: Luring Poles. 1979, Urania-Verlag Leipzig, p. 186
  10. ^ Guy Lawson, An Insurance Salesman and a Doctor Walk Into a Bar, and End Up at the North Pole. In: The New York Times Magazine . March 17, 2016, accessed March 20, 2016 .
  11. Christoph Seidler, DER SPIEGEL: Climate change in the Arctic: The ice at the North Pole can no longer be saved - DER SPIEGEL - Wissenschaft. Retrieved April 22, 2020 .
  12. Matthias Hannemann: Conversation with a polar adventurer: Is the Arctic melting, Mr. Fox? In: . February 3, 2007, accessed March 5, 2019 .
  13. Top Gear: Season 9, Episode 7 Polar Challenge. In: BBC , July 25, 2007, Polar Special, part 3/3 online. Retrieved December 23, 2013.