Pole of inaccessibility

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Map of distance to the nearest coastline [1] (including oceanic islands, but not lakes) with red spots marking the poles of inaccessibility of main landmasses, Great Britain, and the Iberian Peninsula. Thin isolines are 250 km (160 mi) apart; thick lines 1,000 km (620 mi). Mollweide projection.

A pole of inaccessibility marks a location that is the most challenging to reach owing to its remoteness from geographical features that could provide access. Often it refers to the most distant point from the coastline, implying a maximum degree of continentality.

The term describes a geographic construct, not an actual physical phenomenon. Subject to varying definitions, it is of interest mostly to explorers and adventurers.

Northern pole of inaccessibility

Northern pole of inaccessibility

The northern pole of inaccessibility, sometimes known as the Arctic pole of inaccessibility, or just Arctic pole, is located on the Arctic Ocean pack ice at a distance farthest from any land mass. It lies at 85°48′N 176°9′W / 85.800°N 176.150°W / 85.800; -176.150 (True Northern Pole of Inaccessibility), 1,008 km (626 mi) from the three closest landmasses: Ellesmere Island, Komsomolets Island, and Henrietta Island. [2] This follows from simple geometry, where three points suffice to define a circle; the pole of inaccessibility is then defined as the center of the largest circle that can be drawn within the Arctic Ocean without including any land. Due to constant motion of the pack ice, no permanent structure can exist at this pole.

Until a 2013 review of satellite cartography, the northern pole of inaccessibility was thought to lie at 84°03′N 174°51′W / 84.050°N 174.850°W / 84.050; -174.850 (Old Northern Pole of Inaccessibility), 1,094 km (680 mi) away from Ellesmere, Franz-Josef Land, and the New Siberian Islands. This point is 1,453 km (903 mi) north of Barrow, Alaska, and 214 km (133 mi) away from the actual northern pole of inaccessibility.

This false northern pole of inaccessibility was first crossed by Sir Hubert Wilkins, who flew by aircraft in 1927; in 1958, a Soviet icebreaker reached this point.[ citation needed]

Sir Wally Herbert claimed to be the first to reach what was then considered to be the northern pole of inaccessibility on foot, arriving by dogsled in 1968. Explorer Jim McNeill claimed in 2006 that Herbert did not quite make the pole, and launched his own unsuccessful attempt to reach it. [3]

As of 2010, McNeill said that no one had reached the false northern pole of inaccessibility. [4]

Southern pole of inaccessibility

Southern pole of inaccessibility
The old Soviet Pole of Inaccessibility Station, revisited by Team N2i on 19 January 2007

The southern pole of inaccessibility is the point on the Antarctic continent most distant from the Southern Ocean. A variety of coordinate locations have been given for this pole. The discrepancies are due to the question of whether the "coast" is measured to the grounding line or to the edges of ice shelves, the difficulty of determining the location of the "solid" coastline, the movement of ice sheets and improvements in the accuracy of survey data over the years, as well as possible topographical errors.

The pole of inaccessibility commonly refers to the site of the Soviet Union research station mentioned below, which was constructed at 82°06′S 54°58′E / 82.100°S 54.967°E / -82.100; 54.967 (Pole of Inaccessibility (WMO)) [5] (though some sources give 83°06′S 54°58′E / 83.100°S 54.967°E / -83.100; 54.967 (South Pole of Inaccessibility (IPHC)) [6]). This lies 878 km (546 mi) from the South Pole, at an elevation of 3,718 m (12,198 ft). Using different criteria, the Scott Polar Research Institute locates this pole at 85°50′S 65°47′E / 85.833°S 65.783°E / -85.833; 65.783 (South Pole of Inaccessibility (SPRI)). [7]

According to ThePoles.com, the point farthest from the sea accounting only for the Antarctic land surface proper is at 82°53′14″S 55°4′30″E / 82.88722°S 55.07500°E / -82.88722; 55.07500 (point farthest from the sea), and the farthest point when ice sheets are taken into account is 83°50′37″S 65°43′30″E / 83.84361°S 65.72500°E / -83.84361; 65.72500 (point farthest from the sea counting ice). These points, calculated by the British Antarctic Survey, are quoted as being "the most accurate measure available" (as of 2005). [8]

The southern pole of inaccessibility is far more remote and difficult to reach than the geographic South Pole. On 14 December 1958, the 3rd Soviet Antarctic Expedition for International Geophysical Year research work, led by Yevgeny Tolstikov, established the temporary Pole of Inaccessibility Station (Polyus Nedostupnosti) at 82°06′S 54°58′E / 82.100°S 54.967°E / -82.100; 54.967 (Pole of Inaccessibility Station). A second Russian team returned there in 1967. Today, a building still remains at this location, marked by a bust of Vladimir Lenin that faces towards Moscow, and protected as a historical site. Inside the building, there is a golden visitors' book for those who make it to the site to sign.[ citation needed]

On 4 December 2006, Team N2i, consisting of Henry Cookson, Rupert Longsdon, Rory Sweet and Paul Landry, embarked on an expedition to be the first to reach the historic pole of inaccessibility location without direct mechanical assistance, using a combination of traditional man hauling and kite skiing. The team reached the old abandoned station on 20 January 2007, rediscovering the forgotten statue of Lenin left there by the Soviets some 48 years previously. The explorers were picked up from the spot by a plane from Vostok base, flown to Progress Base and taken back to Cape Town on the Akademik Fyodorov, a Russian polar research vessel. [9] The team found that only the bust on top of the building remained visible; the rest was buried under the snow. [9]

On 11 December 2005, at 7:57 UTC, Ramón Hernando de Larramendi, Juan Manuel Viu, and Ignacio Oficialdegui, members of the Spanish Transantarctic Expedition, reached for the first time in history the southern pole of inaccessibility at 82°53′14″S 55°04′30″E / 82.88722°S 55.07500°E / -82.88722; 55.07500 (British Antarctic Survey-accredited Pole of Inaccessibility), updated that year by the British Antarctic Survey. The team continued their journey towards the second southern pole of inaccessibility, the one that accounts for the ice shelves as well as the continental land, and they were the first expedition to reach it, on 14 December 2005, at 83°50′37″S 65°43′30″E / 83.84361°S 65.72500°E / -83.84361; 65.72500 (British Antarctic Survey-accredited Pole of Inaccessibility). Both achievements took place within an ambitious pioneer crossing of the eastern Antarctic Plateau that started at Novolazerevskaya Base and ended at Progress Base after more than 4,500 km (2,800 mi). This was the fastest polar journey ever achieved without mechanical aid, with an average rate of around 90 km (56 mi) per day and a maximum of 311 km (193 mi) per day, using kites as their power source. [8] [10] [11] [12]

On 27 December 2011, Sebastian Copeland and partner Eric McNair-Landry also reached the 82°06′S 54°58′E / 82.100°S 54.967°E / -82.100; 54.967 (Pole of Inaccessibility Station) southern pole of inaccessibility departing from Novolazerevskaya Base on their way to the South Pole to complete the first partial crossing of Antarctica through both poles, over 4,000 km. [13]

As mentioned above, due to improvements in technology and the position of the continental edge of Antarctica being debated, the exact position of our best estimate of the pole of inaccessibility may vary. However, for the convenience of sport expeditions, a fixed point is preferred, and the Soviet station has been used for this role. This has been recognised by Guinness World Records in regard to Team N2i's expedition in 2006–2007. [14]

Oceanic pole of inaccessibility

Oceanic pole of inaccessibility at 48° 52′ 36″S 123° 23′ 36″W

The oceanic pole of inaccessibility ( 48°52.6′S 123°23.6′W / 48.8767°S 123.3933°W / -48.8767; -123.3933 (Oceanic Pole of Inaccessibility)) is the place in the ocean that is farthest from land. It lies in the South Pacific Ocean, 2,688 km (1,670 mi) from the nearest lands: Ducie Island (part of the Pitcairn Islands) in the north, Motu Nui (part of the Easter Islands) in the northeast, and Maher Island (near the larger Siple Island, off the coast of Marie Byrd Land, Antarctica) in the south.

Known as "Point Nemo", Latin for "no one" and also a reference to Jules Verne's Captain Nemo, it lies more than 1,400 nautical miles from the nearest land. [15] This Oceanic Point of Inaccessibility was used by H. P. Lovecraft as R'lyeh, the earthly home of Cthulhu.

The virtual band Gorillaz claim that Point Nemo is the location of their past headquarters, a floating island made of junk known as Plastic Beach.

The area is also known as a " spacecraft cemetery" because hundreds of decommissioned satellites, space stations, and other spacecraft have been deposited there upon re-entering the atmosphere to lessen the risk of hitting any inhabited locations. [16] Point Nemo is relatively lifeless; its location within the South Pacific Gyre blocks nutrients from reaching the area, and being so far from land it gets little nutrient run-off from coastal waters. [17]

Continental poles of inaccessibility

Continental pole of inaccessibility at 46°17′N 86°40′E


Distance to the sea in Asia, showing the two candidate locations for Eurasian Pole of Inaccessibility.

In Eurasia, the Continental Pole of Inaccessibility is the place on land that is farthest from the ocean, and it lies in northwestern China, near the Kazakhstan border.

Earlier calculations suggested that it is 2,645 km (1,644 mi) from the nearest coastline, located at 46°17′N 86°40′E / 46.283°N 86.667°E / 46.283; 86.667 (Continental Pole of Inaccessibility), approximately 320 km (200 mi) north of the city of Ürümqi, in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region of China, in the Dzoosotoyn Elisen Desert. The nearest settlements to this location are Hoxtolgay Town at 46°34′N 85°58′E / 46.567°N 85.967°E / 46.567; 85.967 (Hoxtolgay), about 50 km (31 mi) to the northwest, Xazgat Township ( Chinese: 夏孜盖乡; pinyin: Xiàzīgài xiāng) at 46°20′N 86°22′E / 46.333°N 86.367°E / 46.333; 86.367 (Xazgat), about 20 km (12 mi) to the west, and Suluk at 46°15′N 86°50′E / 46.250°N 86.833°E / 46.250; 86.833 (Suluk), about 10 km (6.2 mi) to the east.[ citation needed]

However, the previous pole location disregards the Gulf of Ob as part of the oceans, and a recent study [1] proposes two other locations as the ones farther from any ocean (within the uncertainty of coastline definition): EPIA1 44°17′N 82°11′E / 44.29°N 82.19°E / 44.29; 82.19 and EPIA2 45°17′N 88°08′E / 45.28°N 88.14°E / 45.28; 88.14, located respectively at 2,510±10 km (1560±6 mi) and 2,514±7 km (1,562±4 mi) from the oceans. [1] These points lie in a close triangle about the Dzungarian Gate, a significant historical gateway to migration between the East and West. EPIA2 is located near a settlement called K̂as K̂îr Su in a region named K̂îzîlk̂um (قىزىلقۇم) in the Karamgay Township ( zh), Burultokay County.

Elsewhere in Xinjiang, the location 43°40′52″N 87°19′52″E / 43.68111°N 87.33111°E / 43.68111; 87.33111 in the southwestern suburbs of Ürümqi ( Ürümqi County) was designated by local geography experts as the "center point of Asia" in 1992, and a monument to this effect was erected there in the 1990s. The site is a local tourist attraction. [18]

Coincidentally, the continental and oceanic poles of inaccessibility have a similar radius; the Eurasian poles EPIA1 and EPIA2 are about 178 km (111 mi) closer to the ocean than the oceanic pole is to land.

North America

In North America, the continental pole of inaccessibility is in southwest South Dakota about 11 km (7 mi) north of the town of Allen, located 1,650 km (1,030 mi) from the nearest coastline at 43°22′N 101°58′W / 43.36°N 101.97°W / 43.36; -101.97 (Pole of Inaccessibility North America). [1] The Canadian pole of inaccessibility is allegedly in Jackfish River, Alberta 59°02′N 112°49′W / 59.03°N 112.82°W / 59.03; -112.82 (Pole of Inaccessibility Canada), a few kilometres up the Peace River from where the Jackfish River (one of six Canadian rivers of that name) flows through it. [19]

South America

In South America, the continental pole of inaccessibility is in Brazil at 14°03′S 56°51′W / 14.05°S 56.85°W / -14.05; -56.85 (Continental Pole of Inaccessibility in South America), near Arenápolis. [1]


In Australia, the continental pole of inaccessibility is located either at 23°10′S 132°16′E / 23.17°S 132.27°E / -23.17; 132.27 (Continental Pole of Inaccessibility of Australia) [1] or at 23°2′S 132°10′E / 23.033°S 132.167°E / -23.033; 132.167 (Australian Pole of Inaccessibility), [20] 920 km (570 mi) from the nearest coastline, approximately 161 km (100 miles) west-northwest of Alice Springs. The nearest town is Papunya, Northern Territory, about 30 km (19 mi) to the southwest of both locations. In August 2016, The Turner Twins reached the continental pole of inaccessibility 23°2′S 132°10′E / 23.033°S 132.167°E / -23.033; 132.167 (Australian Pole of Inaccessibility) flying paramotors. [21]


In Africa, the pole of inaccessibility is at 5°39′N 26°10′E / 5.65°N 26.17°E / 5.65; 26.17, 1,814 km (1,127 mi) from the coast, [1] near the town of Obo in the Central African Republic and close to the country's tripoint with South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.




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