- Reuters/Issei Kato
- The North Pole isn’t much to see: it’s a watery place where sea ice drifts across the Arctic Ocean.
- No people live there, but walruses and polar bears do.
- Santa would probably feel more at home in Antarctica, where a candy-cane-striped pole marks the southernmost spot in the world.
The North Pole is probably one of the worst places on the planet for a workshop full of toys.
If Santa Claus really set up shop at the northernmost point on the globe, he’d have to wear a wetsuit.
That’s because the North Pole isn’t a land mass at all; it’s a watery place that’s home to shifting sea ice and walruses.
- Arterra/UIG via Getty Images
Perhaps that’s why the people of Lapland, Finland have long claimed they live in Santa’s hometown. But they are not even the closest people to the North Pole. That prize goes to the residents of Longyearbyen, the world’s northernmost town, which is located on the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, some 650 miles from the pole.
People who live at those latitudes endure four months of total darkness, and another four bathed in around-the-clock light. Other northern regions, such as Russia, Alaska, Canada, and Greenland, also all get very little light in the wintertime, as the sun’s rays shower the southern hemisphere.
- Lev FedoseyevTASS via Getty Images
But none of those people live exactly at the tippy-top of the world. Very few humans have ever visited that spot.
Polar Explorer Eric Larsen went on a 500-mile trek to the North Pole in 2014 along with mountaineer Ryan Waters. The two skied part of the way, but to reach the true North Pole, they had to put their gear in the water and swim.
- Courtesy Eric Larsen
That’s because there’s no land mass at the pole. In the map below, you can see where the Pole is in relation to Alaska (on the left) and Europe (to the right). The big snowy blob is Greenland.
- Google Earth
The North Pole may not look the way it’s depicted in children’s books, but there is a mysterious ocean portal there: the 14,070-foot-deep Fram Basin. In this area, where the ocean floor spreads apart, the surface temperature of the salty water averages around freezing on an annual basis.
As far as Santa’s workshop is concerned, the South Pole might be a better location choice. That point lies on an actual continent: Antarctica. And there is even a candy-cane-colored stick in the ground there to mark the Pole’s exact location.
- Ole Mathismoen/AFP/Getty Images
Now that, my friends, looks like something that could grace the entrance to Santa’s workshop, if ever there was one.
If Santa lived at the South Pole, he’d also have people to hang out with. The US’ Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station houses up to 250 astronomers and astrophysicists every summer. Scientists studying seismology and the Earth’s atmosphere also use measurements taken at the site. You can check what the people there are up to right now via a live webcam.
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
The world’s southern tip also hosts frequent Antarctic explorers like 33-year-old Colin O’Brady, an American who is currently trekking across the southern continent. O’Brady recently made it to the South Pole; he’s aiming to become the first person ever to cross the land solo and unaided.
He’s now less than 100 miles from the finish line. O’Brady is wearing an orangey-red parka and towing a heavy “sleigh” full of wrapped-up “presents” – that is, all the food and gear that have kept him alive for more than 50 days.