23 December 2013

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North Pole News: Fun Arctic Facts

US Navy 040419-N-6027E-002 The crew of the Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Hampton (SSN 767) posted a sign reading North Pole made by the crew after surfacing in the polar ice cap region
We're in the midst of holidays filled with hope, magic and mythic joy, and as we spend time with family and friends, children pretend to sleep while waiting for the sound of hooves tapping on the roof and rustling around the tree in the living room. Someone has come from the North Pole just for them.

The North Pole carries such a sense of wonder for us. Even as adults we keep up the mystery of Santa's Village and flying reindeer in the back of our minds to hold on to a bit of that youth. But Santa's not the only real thing happening up there. Quite a bit happens at the North Pole year round that many of us never consider.

Here are some fun facts about the arctic tundra to impress your friends and neighbors with:

1. You may know that the Earth technically has two North Poles, the terrestrial (a fixed point defined by the axis of the Earth's rotation) and the magnetic North Pole. What you may not know, is that the magnetic pole is subject to change subject to the movement of the Earth's crust. Currently, the two poles are approximately 600 miles apart and the magnetic is moving East at about 6-25 miles a year.

2. There's actually no land beneath the North Pole. In fact, the U.S. atomic submarine Nautilus was the first to diver under the arctic ice sheet in 1958. The arctic area surrounding and beneath what is considered the terrestial North Pole is actually just a thick sheet of ice that expands and contracts with the seasons.

File:Earth-lighting-winter-solstice EN.png
3. Yes, there are seasons at the North Pole! However, these seasons can pretty much be catagorized as dark and freezing (-31F) and light and not quite as freezing (32F). As the world turns on its tilted axis, the fixed, or terrestrial North Pole tilts both toward and away from the sun depending on its position in orbit. Because of this, the area experiences a season of twighlight and darkness from mid-September to mid-March, at which point the sun becomes more visable and a extended season of light takes place.

However, neither the North or South poles are the coldest places on earth. According to NASA, that honor goes to East Antarctica which dropped to -135.8 F on Aug. 10, 2010.

4. There are hotsprings in the arctic circle surrounding the North Pole. It sounds impossible considering the bone chilling temperatures we just looked at, but actual hot springs exist in Alaska, Siberia and Iceland that have been converted in to spas and are waiting for you to take your next vacation.

5. Speaking of fun vacations, the North Pole actually has an annual marathon. Tempting, no? The next one will be held on April 9th, 2014 in sub-zero temperatures. Make sure the get the package that includes a medal, commemorative t-shirt and emergency medical evacuation insurance.

6. There's a ton of oil up there. Geological surveys have shown that up to 30% of the Earth's oil reserves are beneath the North Pole's arctic region.

But there are problems. Officially, no nation actually has an official claim to the area (Russia tried putting a flag up, but the UN said no). So who get's the oil reserve? Eight different countries have forcefully thrown their hats in the ring. The other problem is that the area is a refuge to quite a few species that don't mix well with oil drilling.

7. One animal that doesn't have to worry about the arctic drilling is the penguin. There are no penguins at the North Pole, they live on the other side (South Pole). This means that none of them actually come in contact, or get eaten by polar bears. Animals that do thrive in those conditions are puffins, reindeer, orcas, beluga whales, arctic foxes and narwhals (the unicorns of the sea).

8. Just as there are two North Poles, Santa has two homes near by. The first in Finnish Lapland, where you can visit Santa's workshop and explore a series of decorated caves and meet helpful Finnish elves and the big jolly man himself. The other is in Alaska near Anchorage in a Christmas-themed town with the origional name of North Pole, Alaska. It is there that you can send letters to Santa and, if recieved before the 10th of December, get a nice response back. How? Send a letter to the address below with the return address of "Santa, North Pole" and watch the magic happen.
North Pole Postmark Postmaster
41-41 Postmark Drive
Anchorage, Alaska 99530
Or you could just email him. That might be more efficient.


Featured images:
License: Creative Commons image source
License: Creative Commons image source
License: Creative Commons image source 

About Today's Contributor
Annalise Proctor, an avid reader, writer and Chicago transplant, who heart reindeer landing on her roof when she was five years old and will never forget it. She insists on spreading hope, joy and odd factoids one article at a time. Read more of her work on the Advanced Physical Medicine blog.

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