Interesting facts about the real North Pole

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You probably grew up believing that the North Pole is a magical place with reindeer, elves and holiday cheer like you saw in the movies. And most importantly, that it's where Santa Claus lives. Unfortunately, you're not going to find any of those things at the real North Pole. Here are some interesting facts you may not know about the northernmost part of the Earth.

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There's no land

Unlike the South Pole, the North Pole doesn't have steady land. It's actually a sheet of ice that floats on top of the Arctic Ocean. According to National Geographic, the ice is about 2 or 3 meters thick. So, contrary to what some may imagine, it's not an ideal place for skiing and snowboarding or for reindeer games.

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It's difficult to study

The North Pole is located on ice that is constantly drifting. For scientists and researchers, it would be difficult to set up a permanent station to study the region. However, there are research stations that drift along with the floating ice to study the region's ecosystem. These stations monitor the temperature, ice packs, currents, weather conditions, marine life and sea depths.

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It's completely dark for 6 months

From early October to early March, the North Pole remains in complete darkness. Because the Earth is on a tilted axis as it revolves around the sun, the sun is always below the horizon during the winter months.

It's completely lit for the other 6 months

The North Pole experiences only one sunrise and sunset every year. From early April through the end of September, the North Pole has 24 hours of daylight because the sun is always above the horizon during the summer months.

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There's a North Pole marathon

Yes, people run a marathon on a giant floating sheet of ice. The ice is sturdy enough to hold human weight as competitors from around the world run 26.2 miles in extreme sub-zero temperatures. Over 500 people have completed the race to date.

It's not part of any nation

Countries like Canada and Denmark border the North Pole, but there is not a single country that can claim the region. However, in 2007, Russia used a mini-submarine to plant a titanium Russian flag on the seafloor underneath the North Pole during an expedition called Arktika. The United Nations later dismissed this attempt to claim the pole.

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But there are still laws

The North Pole is considered part of international waters, which means it is governed by the Law of the Sea that is applied to all oceans. Canada, the United States (via Alaska), Denmark (via Greenland), Russia and Norway are allowed to explore potential oil reserves and other natural resources up to 200 nautical miles from their coastline, but beyond those miles, their rights are limited.

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It's warmer than the South Pole

This doesn't mean you should grab all of your beach gear. The temperature at the North Pole can reach as high as 32 degrees Fahrenheit (or zero degrees Celsius), but the South Pole's temperature averages minus 76 degrees Fahrenheit. This is because the South Pole sits 9,000 feet above sea level, while the North Pole is only a foot or so above sea level, allowing it to absorb heat from the Arctic Ocean.

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No, penguins and other arctic animals don't live there

Since the drifting ice can be unpredictable, it is hard for animals like polar bears, arctic foxes and penguins to migrate and establish a home there. However, polar bears sometimes wander the area in search of food. Sorry, you won't be seeing Rudolph there either.

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But there's an abundance of arctic cod

There may not be much life above the ice, but the marine life below is lively. Various kinds of shrimp, tiny crustaceans and sea anemones occupy the area. It also has an abundance of small fish known as arctic cod that prey on tiny shrimp and crustaceans.

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There's no civilization

Much like animals, it is hard for humans to create a home in the North Pole due to the shifting ice and extreme weather conditions. But there are some cities that can actually withstand extremely cold weather.

Time is confusing

Time zones are determined by the lines of longitude that connect the North and South Pole. Since the longitude lines start at the North Pole, that means the Pole is located within all time zones. Also, the fact that there is only one sunrise and sunset each year makes the concept of time even more confusing.

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The first verified expedition wasn't until 1909

Since the 19th century, there have been several expeditions to study the North Pole, but the first likely didn't occur before 1909. In 1908, American explorer Frederick Albert Cook claimed to have reached the North Pole, but he was unable to provide navigational records to verify his expedition and his team later asserted it didn't reach the Pole. A year later, fellow American Robert Peary made the same claim, although it was disputed for years. It wasn't until National Geographic conducted extensive studies of Peary's photographs to conclude that he was within 5 miles of the North Pole. British explorer Tom Avery supported Peary's claim after he followed Peary's route using sled dogs and was able to reach the North Pole successfully.

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There's a town in Alaska named North Pole

While you may not find Santa in the actual North Pole, there is a small city in Alaska where the spirit of Christmas lives year-round. People can visit Santa Claus House, which is covered in children's letters to Santa, enjoy ice-sculpting competitions and join in reindeer games. Alaska isn't the only place with Christmas spirit, check out these other Christmas towns and villages worth visiting around the world.


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