The surface above the geographic North Pole is a constantly shifting bed of sea ice.

Photograph by Dan Westergren, National Geographic
  • On May 3, 1952 American Air Force Colonel Joseph O. Fletcher and Lieutenant Colonel William P. Benedict successfully landed an aircraft at the North Pole. Moments after the C-47 landed, Fletcher walked to the exact geographic North Pole. Navy Admiral Robert E. Peary is thought to be the first person to reach the North Pole in 1909, although this is surrounded in controversy. The submarine USS Nautilus would be the first ship to cruise under the North Pole in 1958.
     
    The geographic North Pole is the fixed point where the Earth’s axis of rotation meets its surface in the Northern Hemisphere. On a map, all lines of longitude stretch from the North Pole to the South Pole. 
     
    The North Pole is about 724 kilometers (450 miles) north of the island of Greenland. It is located on a shifting ice pack in the Arctic Ocean, meaning there is no actual land beneath the 10- to 16-meter (6- to 10-foot) thick mass of ice. In the winter, this ice pack grows dramatically. At its height, it reaches the size of the continental United States. In the summer, nearly half of the ice disappears. The North Pole experiences six months of complete sunlight and six months of total darkness each year. 
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    aircraft Noun

    vehicle able to travel and operate above the ground.

    axis Noun

    an invisible line around which an object spins.

    Encyclopedic Entry: axis
    continental United States Noun

    U.S. land continuously stretching from the Atlantic to Pacific oceans (not including the states of Alaska and Hawaii.)

    controversy Noun

    disagreement or debate.

    longitude Noun

    distance east or west of the prime meridian, measured in degrees.

    Encyclopedic Entry: longitude
    Northern Hemisphere Noun

    half of the Earth between the North Pole and the Equator.

    North Pole Noun

    fixed point that, along with the South Pole, forms the axis on which the Earth spins.

    Encyclopedic Entry: North Pole
    pack ice Noun

    large ice formation in seawater, pushed together by currents and winds.

    rotation Noun

    object's complete turn around its own axis.

    Encyclopedic Entry: rotation
    submarine Noun

    vehicle that can travel underwater.