University of Wisconsin-Madison

Week 52 at the Pole

NSF/S. Richter
NSF/S. Richter

So how many South Poles are there? If you thought there was just one, here are some trivia tidbits for your back pocket. Generally speaking, South Pole refers to the geographic South Pole, the southernmost point on the Earth’s surface that intersects its axis of rotation. But nearby, there is also what’s referred to as the ceremonial South Pole, a site designated for “South Pole” photo opportunities. It is recognizable in photos from its marker topped by a mirrored sphere and surrounded by the flags of the Antarctic Treaty signatory states. Then there is the South Magnetic Pole, a spot that shifts due to changes in the Earth’s magnetic field, and a little web searching reveals other South Pole instances as well.

Although you might expect that it would remain fixed, the marker at the geographic South Pole is moved on a regular basis. Since the polar ice sheet is constantly shifting, at about 10 meters per year, the marker at the South Pole must be relocated to maintain its position. A new marker is crafted each year and inaugurated in a special ceremony on January 1st. Check out some of the different markers used over the years. The recent marker installation was the highlight at the Pole last week, but packing up retro cargo may have been a close second.

NSF/S. Richter
NSF/S. Richter
NSF/E. Beiser
NSF/E. Beiser
NSF/E. Beiser
NSF/E. Beiser
NSF/S. Richter
NSF/S. Richter
NSF/S. Richter
NSF/S. Richter