The North Pole, the legendary home of Santa Claus and his workshop, is actually two separate spots. There is geographic North Pole, the northern-most point on earth and the magnetic North Pole. The geographic North Pole is located in the Arctic Ocean, about 450 miles north of Greenland. It is completely ice-covered and has six months of daylight, followed by six months of night. All points are south from the North Pole.
The magnetic North Pole is located hundreds of miles south from the geographic North Pole. Its exact location varies slightly from day to day. It is generally located north of Canada's Sverdrup Island. This is the point to which all compasses are drawn -- the center of the earth's magnetic field.
History of the North Pole
Robert Peary, his assistant Matthew Henson, and four Inuit are widely held to have been the first men to reach the geographic North Pole, in 1909, although there is some dispute as to their exact location. The first ship to surface at the North Pole was the US nuclear submarine, Nautilus, in 1958.
The history of the North Pole as a magnetic point dates back to the 17th century, when Sir William Gilbert proposed his theory of compass travel to the court of Elizabeth I. The first expedition to reach the magnetic pole was that of Raoul Amundsen, in 1903.
Visiting the North Pole
There are many ways to visit the North Pole, both literally and figuratively. Several cruise lines sail across the Arctic Circle, near the geographic pole. Alternatively, Santa's workshops, across the United States welcome visitors throughout the year.
- Arctic Cruises - A number of small cruise ships offer journeys to points near the North Pole. These cruises, generally, depart in July and August when the weather is the warmest and the waterways remain unfrozen. Ports of call include Norway's Svalbard Islands (literally "Cold Islands"), Greenland, Iceland, and the Lapland region of Norway. These ships generally hold between 30 and 100 passengers.
- Other Places to Visit Santa Claus - For those you can't get away for a trip to the North Pole, various Santa Claus vacation spots welcome visitors closer to home. Among them are:
- North Pole New York - Located 12 miles north of Lake Placid in New York's Adirondack Mountains, this year-round attraction features a Santa's workshop, retail shopping, puppet shows, live animals, music, and stage shows. The site adorns itself for the holidays and offers special entertainment, Santa sightings, and fun for the whole family.
- Santa Claus Indiana - Holiday World, located in Santa Claus Indiana in the southeastern part of the state, first opened in 1946. This year-round amusement park features roller coasters and other rides, live reindeer and other animals, Santa sightings, a Santa's workshop, and live entertainment.
- Finland's Santaland and Reindeer Park - The village of Rovaniemi, located in Finland, north of the Arctic Circle, is the natural home of reindeer and Laplanders. The snowy terrain is accessible from Helsinki by air (it's a one hour flight). Attractions include Santa's workshop, Santa's main post office, and Santa's own reindeer.