Ceremonial South Pole
One of the three South Poles is the Ceremonial South Pole. Here you’ll find a metallic sphere marking the South Pole surrounded by 12 flags representing the 12 nations that signed the original Antarctic Treaty – Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, France, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the United States.
The Ceremonial South Pole is only a 10-minute walk from the station. In fact, you can see it from the Galley where we eat. Oftentimes we’ll look through the window and see people either from the station or the nearby tourist camp taking pictures at the Ceremonial South Pole – it makes for a great photo opp.
Geographic South Pole
Only 600 feet away is the Geographic South Pole. This is the southernmost point on the surface of the Earth, directly opposite of the Geographic North Pole. Its coordinates are 90 degrees South (with no definable longitude).
The sign at the Geographic South Pole contains two quotes - one from Roald Amundsen and one from Robert Scott. These two men were the leaders of the earliest expeditions to the South Pole. Their names might sound familiar – the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station is named after them. The elevation of 9,301feet is also listed on the Geographic South Pole sign.
Each year on New Year’s Day, there is a ceremony at the Geographic South Pole. At this ceremony, the Geographic South Pole marker, sign, and American flag are repositioned to compensate for the movement of the ice. Here at the South Pole, the ice moves approximately 10 meters each year, so shifting the Geographic South Pole is necessary to maintain the 90 degrees South latitude.
The South Pole marker is designed by the people who winter-over. Each winter-over can submit a design for the marker. The designs are then voted upon, until a winner is reached. The National Science Foundation (NSF) must approve this design and the machinist at the South Pole Station has the final say, as he will be the one to make this design a reality.
One unique thing you can do at the Geographic South Pole is run all the way around the world in under 30 seconds. Watch as Dylan and I give it a try!
Despite the small radius around the world, the run still proved to be exhausting as I had about 20 pounds of Extreme Cold Weather gear on!
Magnetic South Pole
The final of the three South Poles is the Magnetic South Pole. When you use a compass, it will point to the Magnetic North Pole. Exactly opposite from that point you’ll find the Magnetic South Pole.
The Magnetic South Pole sits somewhere in the middle of the Southern Ocean, below Australia and New Zealand. The location of the Magnetic South Pole changes depending on Earth’s magnetic field.
Fun fact: The Magnetic South Pole is in water whereas the Magnetic North Pole is on land. The Geographic South Pole is on land whereas the Geographic North Pole is in water.
This means that when I walk outside the station to the Ceremonial South Pole or the Geographic South Pole, nothing too strange happens with a compass. It still aligns itself with the North & South Magnetic Poles. Kind of anticlimactic… Take a look: