South Pole

The South Pole, also known as the Geographic South Pole or Terrestrial South Pole, is one of the two points where the Earth's axis of rotation intersects its surface. It is the southernmost point on the surface of the Earth and lies on the opposite side of the Earth from the North Pole.

Situated on the continent of Antarctica, it is the site of the United States Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station, which was established in 1956 and has been permanently staffed since that year. The Geographic South Pole is distinct from the South Magnetic Pole, the position of which is defined based on the Earth's magnetic field. The South Pole is at the center of the Southern Hemisphere.

Coordinates: 90°S 180°E / 90°S 180°E

Geographic Southpole crop
The Geographic South Pole is marked by the stake on the right.
Antarctica 6400px from Blue Marble
NASA image showing Antarctica and the South Pole in 2005.


Ceremonial South Pole
The Ceremonial South Pole in 1998.
Amundsen-scott-south pole station 2007
The Ceremonial South Pole as of February 2008.

For most purposes, the Geographic South Pole is defined as the southern point of the two points where the Earth's axis of rotation intersects its surface (the other being the Geographic North Pole). However, the Earth's axis of rotation is actually subject to very small "wobbles" (polar motion), so this definition is not adequate for very precise work.

The geographic coordinates of the South Pole are usually given simply as 90°S, since its longitude is geometrically undefined and irrelevant. When a longitude is desired, it may be given as 0°. At the South Pole, all directions face north. For this reason, directions at the Pole are given relative to "grid north", which points northwards along the prime meridian.[1] Along tight latitude circles, clockwise is east, and counterclockwise is west, opposite to the North Pole.

The Geographic South Pole is located on the continent of Antarctica (although this has not been the case for all of Earth's history because of continental drift). It sits atop a featureless, barren, windswept and icy plateau at an altitude of 2,835 metres (9,301 ft) above sea level, and is located about 1,300 km (800 mi) from the nearest open sea at Bay of Whales. The ice is estimated to be about 2,700 metres (9,000 ft) thick at the Pole, so the land surface under the ice sheet is actually near sea level.[2]

The polar ice sheet is moving at a rate of roughly 10 metres per year in a direction between 37° and 40° west of grid north,[3] down towards the Weddell Sea. Therefore, the position of the station and other artificial features relative to the geographic pole gradually shift over time.

The Geographic South Pole is marked by a stake in the ice alongside a small sign; these are repositioned each year in a ceremony on New Year's Day to compensate for the movement of the ice.[4] The sign records the respective dates that Roald Amundsen and Robert F. Scott reached the Pole, followed by a short quotation from each man, and gives the elevation as "9,301 FT.".[5][6] A new marker stake is designed and fabricated each year by staff at the site.[4]

Ceremonial South Pole

The Ceremonial South Pole is an area set aside for photo opportunities at the South Pole Station. It is located some meters from the Geographic South Pole, and consists of a metallic sphere on a short bamboo pole, surrounded by the flags of the original Antarctic Treaty signatory states.

Historic monuments

Saludo a la Bandera Argentina durante la Operación 90
Argentinian soldiers saluting the flag after erecting the pole in 1965.

Amundsen's Tent: The tent was erected by the Norwegian expedition led by Roald Amundsen on its arrival on 14 December 1911. It is currently buried beneath the snow and ice in the vicinity of the Pole. It has been designated a Historic Site or Monument (HSM 80), following a proposal by Norway to the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting.[7] The precise location of the tent is unknown, but based on calculations of the rate of movement of the ice and the accumulation of snow, it is believed, as of 2010, to lie between 1.8 and 2.5 km (1.1 and 1.5 miles) from the Pole at a depth of 17 m (56 ft) below the present surface.[8]

Argentine Flagpole: A flagpole erected at the South Geographical Pole in December 1965 by the First Argentine Overland Polar Expedition has been designated a Historic Site or Monument (HSM 1) following a proposal by Argentina to the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting.[9]



In 1820, several expeditions claimed to have been the first to have sighted Antarctica, with the very first being the Russian expedition led by Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen and Mikhail Lazarev.[10] The first landing was probably just over a year later when American Captain John Davis, a sealer, set foot on the ice.[11]

The basic geography of the Antarctic coastline was not understood until the mid-to-late 19th century. American naval officer Charles Wilkes claimed (correctly) that Antarctica was a new continent, basing the claim on his exploration in 1839–40,[12] while James Clark Ross, in his expedition of 1839–43, hoped that he might be able to sail all the way to the South Pole. (He was unsuccessful.)[13]


Aan de Zuidpool - p1913-160
Amundsen's party at the South Pole, December 1911. From left to right: Amundsen, Hanssen, Hassel and Wisting (photo by fifth member Bjaaland).

British explorer Robert Falcon Scott on the Discovery Expedition of 1901–04 was the first to attempt to find a route from the Antarctic coastline to the South Pole. Scott, accompanied by Ernest Shackleton and Edward Wilson, set out with the aim of travelling as far south as possible, and on 31 December 1902, reached 82°16′ S.[14] Shackleton later returned to Antarctica as leader of the British Antarctic Expedition (Nimrod Expedition) in a bid to reach the Pole. On 9 January 1909, with three companions, he reached 88°23' S – 112 miles (180 km) from the Pole – before being forced to turn back.[15]

The first men to reach the Geographic South Pole were the Norwegian Roald Amundsen and his party on December 14, 1911. Amundsen named his camp Polheim and the entire plateau surrounding the Pole King Haakon VII Vidde in honour of King Haakon VII of Norway. Robert Falcon Scott returned to Antarctica with his second expedition, the Terra Nova Expedition, initially unaware of Amundsen's secretive expedition. Scott and four other men reached the South Pole on January 17, 1912, thirty-four days after Amundsen. On the return trip, Scott and his four companions all died of starvation and extreme cold.

In 1914 Ernest Shackleton's Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition set out with the goal of crossing Antarctica via the South Pole, but his ship, the Endurance, was frozen in pack ice and sank 11 months later. The overland journey was never made.

US Admiral Richard Evelyn Byrd, with the assistance of his first pilot Bernt Balchen, became the first person to fly over the South Pole on November 29, 1929.


Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station. The ceremonial pole and flags can be seen in the background, slightly to the left of centre, below the tracks behind the buildings. The actual geographic pole is a few more metres to the left. The buildings are raised on stilts to prevent snow build up.

It was not until 31 October 1956 that humans once again set foot at the South Pole, when a party led by Admiral George J. Dufek of the US Navy landed there in an R4D-5L Skytrain (C-47 Skytrain) aircraft. The US Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station was established by air over 1956–1957 for the International Geophysical Year and has been continuously staffed since then by research and support personnel.[2]

After Amundsen and Scott, the next people to reach the South Pole overland (albeit with some air support) were Edmund Hillary (January 4, 1958) and Vivian Fuchs (January 19, 1958) and their respective parties, during the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition. There have been many subsequent expeditions to arrive at the South Pole by surface transportation, including those by Havola, Crary and Fiennes. The first group of women to reach the pole were Pam Young, Jean Pearson, Lois Jones, Eileen McSaveney, Kay Lindsay and Terry Tickhill in 1969.[16] In 1978-79 Michele Eileen Raney became the first woman to winter at the South Pole.[17]

Subsequent to the establishment, in 1987, of the logistic support base at Patriot Hills Base Camp, the South Pole became more accessible to non-government expeditions.

On December 30, 1989, Arved Fuchs and Reinhold Messner were the first to traverse Antarctica via the South Pole without animal or motorized help, using only skis and the help of wind.[18][19] Two women, Victoria E. Murden and Shirley Metz reached the pole by land on January 17, 1989.[20]

The fastest unsupported journey to the Geographic South Pole from the ocean is 24 days and one hour from Hercules Inlet and was set in 2011 by Norwegian adventurer Christian Eide,[21] who beat the previous solo record set in 2009 by American Todd Carmichael of 39 days and seven hours, and the previous group record also set in 2009 of 33 days and 23 hours.[22]

The fastest solo (female), unsupported and unassisted trek to the south pole was performed by Hannah McKeand from the UK in 2006. She made the journey in 39 days 9hrs 33mins. She started on the 19th November 2006 and finished on the 28 December 2006.[23]

In the 2011/12 summer, separate expeditions by Norwegian Aleksander Gamme and Australians James Castrission and Justin Jones jointly claimed the first unsupported trek without dogs or kites from the Antarctic coast to the South Pole and back. The two expeditions started from Hercules Inlet a day apart, with Gamme starting first, but completing according to plan the last few kilometres together. As Gamme traveled alone he thus simultaneously became the first to complete the task solo.[24][25][26]

On 28 December 2018, the first Briton unassisted journey to the south pole was performed by Captain Lou Rudd who became the second person to make the journey in 56 days.[27]

Climate and day and night

During the southern winter (March–September), the South Pole receives no sunlight at all, and from May 11 to August 1, between extended periods of twilight, it is completely dark (apart from moonlight). In the summer (September–March), the sun is continuously above the horizon and appears to move in a counter-clockwise circle. However, it is always low in the sky, reaching a maximum of 23.5° in December. Much of the sunlight that does reach the surface is reflected by the white snow. This lack of warmth from the sun, combined with the high altitude (about 2,800 metres (9,200 ft)), means that the South Pole has one of the coldest climates on Earth (though it is not quite the coldest; that record goes to the region in the vicinity of the Vostok Station, also in Antarctica, which lies at a higher elevation).[28] Temperatures at the South Pole are much lower than at the North Pole, primarily because the South Pole is located at altitude in the middle of a continental land mass, while the North Pole is at sea level in the middle of an ocean, which acts as a reservoir of heat.

The South Pole is at an altitude of 9,300 feet (2,800 m) but feels like 11,000 feet (3,400 m).[29]. Centrifugal force from the spin of the planet pulls the atmosphere toward the equator. The South Pole is colder than the North Pole primarly because of the elevation difference and for being in the middle of a continent.[30] The North Pole is a few feet from sea level in the middle of an ocean.

In midsummer, as the sun reaches its maximum elevation of about 23.5 degrees, high temperatures at the South Pole in January average at −25.9 °C (−15 °F). As the six-month "day" wears on and the sun gets lower, temperatures drop as well: they reach −45 °C (−49 °F) around sunset (late March) and sunrise (late September). In midwinter, the average temperature remains steady at around −60 °C (−76 °F). The highest temperature ever recorded at the Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station was −12.3 °C (9.9 °F) on Christmas Day, 2011,[31] and the lowest was −82.8 °C (−117.0 °F) on June 23, 1982[32][33][34] (for comparison, the lowest temperature directly recorded anywhere on earth was −89.2 °C (−128.6 °F) at Vostok Station on July 21, 1983, though −93.2 °C (−135.8 °F) was measured indirectly by satellite in East Antarctica between Dome A and Dome F in August 2010[35]). Mean annual temperature at the South Pole is –49.5 °C (–57.1 °F)[36].

The South Pole has an ice cap climate (Köppen climate classification EF). It resembles a desert, receiving very little precipitation. Air humidity is near zero. However, high winds can cause the blowing of snowfall, and the accumulation of snow amounts to about 7 cm (2.8 in) per year.[36] The former dome seen in pictures of the Amundsen–Scott station is partially buried due to snow storms, and the entrance to the dome had to be regularly bulldozed to uncover it. More recent buildings are raised on stilts so that the snow does not build up against their sides.


In most places on Earth, local time is determined by longitude, such that the time of day is more-or-less synchronised to the position of the sun in the sky (for example, at midday the sun is roughly at its highest). This line of reasoning fails at the South Pole, where the sun rises and sets only once per year, and all lines of longitude, and hence all time zones, converge. There is no a priori reason for placing the South Pole in any particular time zone, but as a matter of practical convenience the Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station keeps New Zealand Time (UTC+12/UTC+13). This is because the US flies its resupply missions ("Operation Deep Freeze") out of McMurdo Station, which is supplied from Christchurch, New Zealand.

Flora and fauna

Due to its exceptionally harsh climate, there are no native resident plants or animals at the South Pole. Remarkably, though, off-course south polar skuas and snow petrels are occasionally seen there.[40]

In 2000 it was reported that microbes had been detected living in the South Pole ice.[41]

See also


  1. ^ "Moving the South Pole" Archived 2011-07-16 at the Wayback Machine, NASA Quest
  2. ^ a b Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station, National Science Foundation, Office of Polar Programs
  3. ^ "Where is the real Pole really?". Retrieved 2008-03-25.
  4. ^ a b "Marker makes annual move", page 6, Antarctic Sun. January 8, 2006; McMurdo Station, Antarctica.
  5. ^ "Sign at the (ever moving) actual geographical South Pole (a few feet away from the Ceremonial Pole)". Pierre R. Schwob Physics/Astronomy. Retrieved 2013-05-25.
  6. ^ Kiefer, Alex (January 1994). "South Pole Marker". Retrieved 2008-03-24.
  7. ^ "List of Historic Sites and Monuments approved by the ATCM (2012)" (PDF). Antarctic Treaty Secretariat. 2012. Retrieved 2014-01-07.
  8. ^ [1] Polar Record / Volume 47 / Issue 03 / July 2011
  9. ^ "List of Historic Sites and Monuments approved by the ATCM (2012)" (PDF). Antarctic Treaty Secretariat. 2012. Retrieved 2013-10-04.
  10. ^ Armstrong, Terence (1971). "Bellingshausen and the discovery of Antarctica". Polar Record. 15 (99): 887–889. doi:10.1017/S0032247400062112.
  11. ^ Hurtigruten. "General Information". Hurtigruten. Archived from the original on 2014-10-23. Retrieved 2014-10-23.
  12. ^ Van Doren, Charles Lincoln; McHenry, Robert (1971). Webster's Guide to American History: A Chronological, Geographical, and Biographical Survey and Compendium. Merriam-Webster. p. 1326. ISBN 978-0-87779-081-5.
  13. ^ Berkman, Paul Arthur (2002). Science Into Policy: Global Lessons from Antarctica. Academic Press. p. 35. ISBN 978-0-12-091560-6.
  14. ^ Berkman, Paul Arthur (2002). Science Into Policy: Global Lessons from Antarctica. Academic Press. p. 37. ISBN 978-0-12-091560-6.
  15. ^ Simpson-Housley, Paul (2002). Antarctica: Exploration, Perception and Metaphor. Taylor & Francis. p. 24. ISBN 978-0-203-03602-0.
  16. ^ "First Women at Pole". South Pole Station. Retrieved 24 August 2016.
  17. ^ "Famous Firsts". The Antarctic Sun. United States Antarctic Program. 13 November 2009. Retrieved 25 August 2016.
  18. ^ "Südtirol – Diese Seite existiert nicht". Archived from the original on March 10, 2012. Retrieved 2012-08-13.
  19. ^ "Britannica Online Encyclopedia". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2012-08-13.
  20. ^ "Antarctic Firsts". Antarctic Circle. 4 October 2014. Retrieved 24 August 2016.
  21. ^ Explorersweb (2011-01-13). "Breaking news: Christian Eide bags the South Pole solo speed ski world record". Retrieved 2011-01-13.
  22. ^ "Canadians break speed record trekking to South Pole". Toronto Star. The Canadian Press. 2009-01-07. Retrieved 2010-02-10.
  23. ^ Glenday, Craig (2013). Guinness World Records 2014. The Jim Patison Group. p. 76. ISBN 978-1-908843-15-9.
  24. ^ "Ice Trek Expeditions". Retrieved 2013-05-25.
  25. ^ "Crossing the Ice". Retrieved 2013-05-25.
  26. ^ "Wilson, nå er vi framme!". Archived from the original on 2013-06-24. Retrieved 2013-05-25.
  27. ^ "Capt Lou Rudd is first Briton to cross Antarctic unaided". BBC News. 29 December 2018.
  28. ^ Science question of the week, Goddard Space Flight Center.
  29. ^ "The USAP Portal: Science and Support in Antarctica - Course Material".
  30. ^ "Why is the South Pole colder than the North Pole?".
  31. ^ Matthew A. Lazzara (2011-12-28). "Preliminary Report: Record Temperatures at South Pole (and nearby AWS sites…)". Retrieved 2011-12-28.
  32. ^ Your stay at Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station Archived 2006-02-02 at the Wayback Machine, National Science Foundation Office of Polar Programs
  33. ^ "How cold is the Antarctic?". NIWA. 2007-02-27. Retrieved 2012-08-13.
  34. ^ "Antarctic Weather". Retrieved 2013-05-25.
  35. ^ "NASA-USGS Landsat 8 Satellite Pinpoints Coldest Spots on Earth", NASA, December 9, 2013
  36. ^ a b Initial environmental evaluation – development of blue-ice and compacted-snow runways, National Science Foundation Office of Polar Programs, April 9, 1993
  37. ^ "Weather and Climate-The Climate of Amundsen–Scott" (in Russian). Weather and Climate (Погода и климат). Retrieved 5 April 2017.
  38. ^ "Klimatafel von Amundsen - Scott / Südpol-Station (USA) / Antarktis" (PDF). Baseline climate means (1961-1990) from stations all over the world (in German). Deutscher Wetterdienst. Retrieved 5 April 2017.
  39. ^ "Amundsen–Scott Climate Normals 1961−1990". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 5 April 2017.
  40. ^ Mark Sabbatini, "Non-human life form seen at Pole", The Antarctic Sun, 5 January 2003.
  41. ^ "Snow microbes found at South Pole", BBC News, 10 July 2000

External links

Amundsen's South Pole expedition

The first expedition to reach the geographic South Pole was led by the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen. He and four others arrived at the pole on 14 December 1911, five weeks ahead of a British party led by Robert Falcon Scott as part of the Terra Nova Expedition. Amundsen and his team returned safely to their base, and later heard that Scott and his four companions had died on their return journey.

Amundsen's initial plans had focused on the Arctic and the conquest of the North Pole by means of an extended drift in an icebound ship. He obtained the use of Fridtjof Nansen's polar exploration ship Fram, and undertook extensive fundraising. Preparations for this expedition were disrupted when, in 1909, the rival American explorers Frederick Cook and Robert E. Peary each claimed to have reached the North Pole. Amundsen then changed his plan and began to prepare for a conquest of the South Pole; uncertain of the extent to which the public and his backers would support him, he kept this revised objective secret. When he set out in June 1910, he led even his crew to believe they were embarking on an Arctic drift, and revealed their true Antarctic destination only when Fram was leaving their last port of call, Madeira.

Amundsen made his Antarctic base, which he named "Framheim", in the Bay of Whales on the Great Ice Barrier. After months of preparation, depot-laying and a false start that ended in near-disaster, he and his party set out for the pole in October 1911. In the course of their journey they discovered the Axel Heiberg Glacier, which provided their route to the polar plateau and ultimately to the South Pole. The party's mastery of the use of skis and their expertise with sled dogs ensured rapid and relatively trouble-free travel. Other achievements of the expedition included the first exploration of King Edward VII Land and an extensive oceanographic cruise.

The expedition's success was widely applauded, though the story of Scott's heroic failure overshadowed its achievement in the United Kingdom. Amundsen's decision to keep his true plans secret until the last moment was criticised by some. Recent polar historians have more fully recognised the skill and courage of Amundsen's party; the permanent scientific base at the pole bears his name, together with that of Scott.

Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station

The Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station is a United States scientific research station at the South Pole, the southernmost place on the Earth. The station is located on the high plateau of Antarctica at an elevation of 2,835 metres (9,301 feet) above sea level and is administered by the Division of Polar Programs within the National Science Foundation under the United States Antarctic Program (USAP). It is named in honor of Norwegian Roald Amundsen and Englishman Robert F. Scott, who led separate teams that raced to become the first to the South Pole in the early 1900s.

The original Amundsen–Scott Station was built by Navy Seabees for the Federal government of the United States during November of 1956, as a part of its commitment to the scientific goals of the International Geophysical Year (IGY), an international effort lasting from January 1957 through June 1958, to study, among other things, the geophysics of the polar regions of Earth.

Before November 1956, there was no permanent human structure at the South Pole, and practically no human presence in the interior of Antarctica at all. The few scientific stations in Antarctica were located near its seacoast. The station has been continuously occupied since it was built and has been rebuilt, demolished, expanded, and upgraded several times since 1956.

Since the Amundsen–Scott Station is located at the South Pole, it is at the only inhabited place on the land surface of the Earth from which the Sun is continuously visible for six months and is then continuously dark for the next six months. Thus, during each year, this station experiences one extremely long "day" and one equally long "night". During the six-month "day", the angle of elevation of the Sun above the horizon varies continuously. The Sun rises on the September equinox, reaches its maximum angle above the horizon on the southern summer solstice, and sets on the March equinox.

During this six-month "night", air temperatures can drop below −73 °C (−99 °F). This is also the time of the year when blizzards, often with gale-force winds, strike the Amundsen–Scott Station. Despite these blizzards, the continuous period of darkness and dry atmosphere make the station an excellent place from which to make astronomical observations.

The number of scientific researchers and members of the support staff housed at the Amundsen–Scott Station has always varied seasonally, with a peak population of around 200 in the summer operational season from October to February. In recent years the winter-time population has been around 50 people.


The Antarctic (US English , UK English or and or ) is a polar region around the Earth's South Pole, opposite the Arctic region around the North Pole. The Antarctic comprises the continent of Antarctica, the Kerguelen Plateau and other island territories located on the Antarctic Plate or south of the Antarctic Convergence. The Antarctic region includes the ice shelves, waters, and all the island territories in the Southern Ocean situated south of the Antarctic Convergence, a zone approximately 32 to 48 km (20 to 30 mi) wide varying in latitude seasonally. The region covers some 20 percent of the Southern Hemisphere, of which 5.5 percent (14 million km2) is the surface area of the Antarctic continent itself. All of the land and ice shelves south of 60°S latitude are administered under the Antarctic Treaty System. Biogeographically, the Antarctic ecozone is one of eight ecozones of the Earth's land surface.


Antarctica (UK: or , US: (listen)) is Earth's southernmost continent. It contains the geographic South Pole and is situated in the Antarctic region of the Southern Hemisphere, almost entirely south of the Antarctic Circle, and is surrounded by the Southern Ocean. At 14,000,000 square kilometres (5,400,000 square miles), it is the fifth-largest continent. For comparison, Antarctica is nearly twice the size of Australia. About 98% of Antarctica is covered by ice that averages 1.9 km (1.2 mi; 6,200 ft) in thickness, which extends to all but the northernmost reaches of the Antarctic Peninsula.

Antarctica, on average, is the coldest, driest, and windiest continent, and has the highest average elevation of all the continents. Most of Antarctica is a polar desert, with annual precipitation of only 200 mm (8 in) along the coast and far less inland. The temperature in Antarctica has reached −89.2 °C (−128.6 °F) (or even −94.7 °C (−135.8 °F) as measured from space), though the average for the third quarter (the coldest part of the year) is −63 °C (−81 °F). Anywhere from 1,000 to 5,000 people reside throughout the year at research stations scattered across the continent. Organisms native to Antarctica include many types of algae, bacteria, fungi, plants, protista, and certain animals, such as mites, nematodes, penguins, seals and tardigrades. Vegetation, where it occurs, is tundra.

Antarctica is noted as the last region on Earth in recorded history to be discovered, unseen until 1820 when the Russian expedition of Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen and Mikhail Lazarev on Vostok and Mirny sighted the Fimbul ice shelf. The continent, however, remained largely neglected for the rest of the 19th century because of its hostile environment, lack of easily accessible resources, and isolation. In 1895, the first confirmed landing was conducted by a team of Norwegians.

Antarctica is a de facto condominium, governed by parties to the Antarctic Treaty System that have consulting status. Twelve countries signed the Antarctic Treaty in 1959, and thirty-eight have signed it since then. The treaty prohibits military activities and mineral mining, prohibits nuclear explosions and nuclear waste disposal, supports scientific research, and protects the continent's ecozone. Ongoing experiments are conducted by more than 4,000 scientists from many nations.

Beardmore Glacier

The Beardmore Glacier in Antarctica is one of the largest valley glaciers in the world, being 200 km (125 mi) long and having a width of 40 km (25 mi). It descends about 2,200 m (7,200 ft) from the Antarctic Plateau to the Ross Ice Shelf and is bordered by the Commonwealth Range of the Queen Maud Mountains on the eastern side and the Queen Alexandra Range of the Central Transantarctic Mountains on the western.The glacier is one of the main passages through the Transantarctic Mountains to the great polar plateau beyond, and was one of the early routes to the South Pole despite its steep upward incline.

The glacier was discovered and climbed by Ernest Shackleton during his Nimrod Expedition of 1908. Although Shackleton turned back before reaching the South Pole, he established the first proven route towards the pole and, in doing so, became the first person to set foot upon the polar plateau. In 1911–1912, Captain Scott and his Terra Nova Expedition team reached the South Pole by similarly climbing the Beardmore. However, they reached the pole a month after Roald Amundsen and his team, who had chosen a route up the previously unknown Axel Heiberg Glacier. It was on the way back to the Nova expedition's base camp after they left the South Pole that Edgar Evans, one of the members of Scott's chosen team to go to on the final trek to the South Pole, died around the foot of Beardmore Glacier on February 17, 1912.

Beardmore Glacier was named by Shackleton after Sir William Beardmore, a Scottish industrialist and expedition sponsor born in 1856.

In 2016 the first beetle fossils, in the form of wing-cases (elytra) of Ball's Antarctic tundra beetle, 14 to 20 million years old, were found on the glacier.


Fram ("Forward") is a ship that was used in expeditions of the Arctic and Antarctic regions by the Norwegian explorers Fridtjof Nansen, Otto Sverdrup, Oscar Wisting, and Roald Amundsen between 1893 and 1912. It was designed and built by the Scottish-Norwegian shipwright Colin Archer for Fridtjof Nansen's 1893 Arctic expedition in which the plan was to freeze Fram into the Arctic ice sheet and float with it over the North Pole.

Fram is said to have sailed farther north (85°57'N) and farther south (78°41'S) than any other wooden ship. Fram is preserved at the Fram Museum in Oslo, Norway.

Helmer Hanssen

Helmer Julius Hanssen (24 September 1870 – 2 August 1956) was a Norwegian sailor, pilot and polar explorer. He participated in three of the polar expeditions led by Roald Amundsen and was one of the first five explorers to reach the South Pole.

List of Antarctic expeditions

This list of Antarctic expeditions is a chronological list of expeditions involving Antarctica. Although the existence of a southern continent had been hypothesized as early as the writings of Ptolemy in the 1st century AD, the South Pole was not reached until 1911.

Olav Bjaaland

Olav Bjaaland (5 March 1873 – 8 June 1961) was a Norwegian ski champion and polar explorer. In 1911, he was one of the first five men to reach the South Pole as part of Amundsen's South Pole expedition.

Oscar Wisting

Oscar Adolf Wisting (6 June 1871 – 5 December 1936) was a Norwegian Naval officer and polar explorer. Together with Roald Amundsen he was the first person to reach both the North and South Poles.

Planum Australe

Planum Australe (Latin: "the southern plain") is the southern polar plain on Mars. It extends southward of roughly 75°S and is centered at 83.9°S 160.0°E / -83.9; 160.0. The geology of this region was to be explored by the failed NASA mission Mars Polar Lander, which lost contact on entry into the Martian atmosphere.

In July 2018, scientists reported the discovery, based on MARSIS radar studies, of a subglacial lake on Mars, 1.5 km (0.93 mi) below the southern polar ice cap, and extending sideways about 20 km (12 mi), the first known stable body of water on the planet.

Pole of inaccessibility

A pole of inaccessibility with respect to a geographical criterion of inaccessibility marks a location that is the most challenging to reach according to that criterion. Often it refers to the most distant point from the coastline, implying a maximum degree of continentality or oceanity. In these cases, pole of inaccessibility can be defined as the center of the largest circle that can be drawn within an area of interest without encountering a coast. Where a coast is imprecisely defined, the pole will be similarly imprecise.


Polheim ("Home at the Pole") was Roald Amundsen's name for his camp (the first ever) at the South Pole. He arrived there on December 14, 1911, along with four other members of his expedition: Helmer Hanssen, Olav Bjaaland, Oscar Wisting, and Sverre Hassel.

Roald Amundsen

Roald Engelbregt Gravning Amundsen (UK: , US: ; 16 July 1872 – c. 18 June 1928) was a Norwegian explorer of polar regions and a key figure of the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration. He led the first expedition to traverse the Northwest Passage in 1906, the first expedition to the South Pole in 1911, and flew over the North Pole in 1926. He disappeared while taking part in a rescue mission for the airship Italia in 1928.


South is one of the four cardinal directions or compass points. South is the opposite of north and is perpendicular to the east and west.

South Magnetic Pole

The South Magnetic Pole is the wandering point on the Earth's Southern Hemisphere where the geomagnetic field lines are directed vertically upwards. It should not be confused with the South Geomagnetic Pole described later.

For historical reasons, the "end" of a freely hanging magnet that points (roughly) north is itself called the "north pole" of the magnet, and the other end, pointing south, is called the magnet's "south pole". Because opposite poles attract, the Earth's South Magnetic Pole is physically actually a magnetic north pole (see also North Magnetic Pole § Polarity).

The South Magnetic Pole is constantly shifting due to changes in the Earth's magnetic field.

As of 2005 it was calculated to lie at 64°31′48″S 137°51′36″E, placing it off the coast of Antarctica, between Adélie Land and Wilkes Land. In 2015 it lay at 64.28°S 136.59°E / -64.28; 136.59 (est). That point lies outside the Antarctic Circle. Due to polar drift, the pole is moving northwest by about 10 to 15 kilometres (6 to 9 mi) per year. Its current distance from the actual Geographic South Pole is approximately 2,860 km (1,780 mi). The nearest permanent science station is Dumont d'Urville Station. Wilkes Land contains a large gravitational mass concentration.

South Pole–Aitken basin

The South Pole–Aitken basin is an impact crater on the far side of the Moon. At roughly 2,500 km (1,600 mi) in diameter and 13 km (8.1 mi) deep, it is one of the largest known impact craters in the Solar System. It is the largest, oldest, and deepest basin recognized on the Moon. It was named for two features on opposing sides: the crater Aitken on the northern end and the lunar south pole at the other end. The outer rim of this basin can be seen from Earth as a huge chain of mountains located on the Moon's southern limb, sometimes informally called "Leibnitz mountains".

On 3 January 2019, the Chang'e 4, a Chinese spacecraft, landed in the basin, specifically within a crater called Von Kármán.

Sverre Hassel

Sverre Helge Hassel (30 July 1876 – 6 June 1928) was a Norwegian polar explorer and one of the first five people to reach the South Pole.

Time in Antarctica

Antarctica sits on every line of longitude, due to the South Pole being situated near the middle of the continent. Theoretically Antarctica would be located in all time zones; however, areas south of the Antarctic Circle experience extreme day-night cycles near the times of the June and December solstices, making it difficult to determine which time zone would be appropriate. For practical purposes time zones are usually based on territorial claims; however, many stations use the time of the country they are owned by or the time zone of their supply base (e.g. McMurdo Station and Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station use New Zealand time due to their main supply base being Christchurch, New Zealand). Nearby stations can have different time zones, due to their belonging to different countries. Many areas have no time zone since nothing is decided and there are not even any temporary settlements that have any clocks. They are simply labeled with UTC time.

Climate data for The South Pole
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) −14.4
Average high °C (°F) −26.0
Daily mean °C (°F) −28.4
Average low °C (°F) −29.6
Record low °C (°F) −41.1
Average precipitation mm (inches) 0.3
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.1 mm) 0.2 0.3 0.2 0.0 0.2 0.1 0.0 0.0 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.3 1.6
Average snowy days 22.0 19.6 13.6 11.4 17.2 17.3 18.2 17.5 11.7 16.7 16.9 20.6 203.0
Mean monthly sunshine hours 406.1 497.2 195.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 34.1 390.6 558.0 616.9 2,698.2
Mean daily sunshine hours 13.1 17.6 6.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.1 12.6 18.6 19.9 7.4
Source #1: (temperatures, 1981–2010, extremes 1957–present)[37]
Source #2: Deutscher Wetterdienst (precipitation 1957–1988 and sun 1978–1993),[38] NOAA (snowy days data, 1961–1988)[39]
South Pole
Coats Land
Queen Maud Land
Enderby Land
Kemp Land
Mac. Robertson Land
Princess Elizabeth Land
Queen Mary Land
Wilkes Land
Adélie Land
George V Land
Victoria Land
Ross Sea
Edward VII Land
Graham Land
South Shetlands
South Orkneys
Stonington Island

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