9/16/2008
Poles of inaccessibility

Turns out there are eleven poles in this planet. There are two geographical poles, technically the North Pole and the South Pole; two magnetic poles, (which is a bit closer to the geographical poles; two geo-magnetic poles, whatever that means; two celestial poles, (which is determined by the way the planet tilts in space, for lack of initiative to explain; a ceremonial South Pole, solely for photo opportunities; and two poles of inaccessibility.

Now, the thing with poles of inaccessibility is that it's not achieved by whichever amount of lines cartographers construct, or how the planet tilts, or how the planet's magnetic fields work out. Apparently, it's simply a spot on the planet that's just so hard to get into, because it's so far away from any geographical feature that could enable someone to get to that point.

To better illustrate this, there's this place called Point Nemo. It's the exact spot in the Pacific Ocean that's farthest from land. Technically, each continent and each ocean has one pole of inaccessibility, but that's not counted, at least by that episode of QI which I watched on YouTube.

For argument's sake - or for me to pretend to be a know-it-all - there are two poles of inaccessibility: the northern pole and the southern pole. Each is quite attached to the geographical poles, and like Point Nemo, it's the point that's farthest from any convenient geographical feature. The northern one, for instance, is roughtly 661 kilometers from the North Pole. The southern one's a bit quirkier, since people are arguing what exactly constitutes Antartica's coast, which means it changes depending on whoever defines it.

But people have been there. An Australian explorer, George Hubert Wilkins, got to the northern pole of inaccessibility via plane in 1927. Thirty-one years later, a Russian icebreaker reached that point. Nobody can mark that spot, however, since the ice in the area is constantly moving - or, to make it more relevant, constantly melting.

As for the southern pole of inaccessibility, and all the confusion as to where it is, there's some agreement as to what approximates to the exact spot: a research station established by the former Soviet Union. Yevgeny Tolstikov led an expedition to the area and established the structure in 1958. Another team returned in 1967. The research base is still there, although snow has buried the entire building, leaving a bust of former Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin visible. Two teams nevertheless got to the area, most recently in 2007, where a British team got to the area without direct mechanical assistance. In short, they just - at least according to that episode of QI - skiied their way to the spot, and endured eating the same thing for forty days.

Nobody has mentioned this in the news, perhaps because we're all preoccupied with politics and terrorism and tragedy, but even in getting to these spots are quite easy, it's something quite fascinating. How bored are we to make up these things? How bored are we to actually try getting there? Nevertheless, it's a test of resilience that most of the six billion-ish people in the planet never really see. Perhaps only those who watched QI found out from one of Team N2i's members that they reached Lenin's bust with temperatures reaching sixty degrees below zero.

Tell that to me, who's still trying to deal with the difference six seats, two desks and a confused collective makes.

And your responses...

epistaxis! *_*

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