Where is the South Pole? Should be an easy answer, right? The exact bottom of the planet, opposite the North Pole—down there in Antarctica.

Well, in fact, the answer isn’t completely clear-cut. For one thing, there are multiple South Poles—seven, in fact—depending on the definition you’re using. And some of them aren’t actually stationary, but rather move over time.

In other words, this is a bit more complicated of a question than you might think!

The following are the most notable South Poles found in the Antarctic, including a few you may never have heard of.

This is the South Pole most people think of when they use the term. The Geographic South Pole marks the southern point of convergence of Earth’s lines of longitude, situated at 90 degrees South. It is, basically speaking, the southern point of Earth’s axis of rotation. When you stand at the Geographic South Pole, every direction you face is north.

It was this extreme location that inspired the most intense initial exploits of the Heroic Age of Exploration. The “Race to the Pole” between Norway’s Roald Amundsen and Britain’s Robert Falcon Scott in 1911-1912, which Amundsen “won,” has captivated people ever since, ranking among the great sagas (and tragedies) of world exploration.

The Geographic South Pole is a fixed spot, but the marker identifying it sits atop the Antarctic Ice Sheet, which moves along at more than two dozen feet a year. So the marker must be repositioned annually to stay true to the Geographic South Pole.

Within shouting distance of the Geographic South Pole, the Ceremonial South Pole at the Scott-Amundsen South Pole Station (U.S.) sports a monument and a circle of flags representing the original signatories of the Antarctic Treaty. It’s basically the official South Pole photo op.

Unless you’ve adjusted the declination of your compass, its needle doesn’t point to the Geographic North Pole (“True North,” in navigational parlance): It points to the North Magnetic Pole. Those aren’t one and the same, and the same holds true for the opposite side of the globe.

The South Magnetic Pole marks the southern point where the lines of Earth’s magnetic field—its magnetosphere, generated by heat-driven movement in the planet’s iron- and nickel-rich liquid outer core—enter the planet at a right angle. The fluidity of the outer core means that the magnetic poles are not fixed, but rather meander around.

The South Magnetic Pole currently lies in the Southern Ocean off the coast of East Antarctica, and is moving northwest toward the White Continent at roughly six to nine miles (10 to 15 kilometers) per year. For reference, this magnetic pole is presently a healthy 1,780 miles (2,860 kilometers) or so from the Geographic South Pole!

Each of Earth’s continents has a Pole of Inaccessibility, the point in the continental interior the farthest in every direction from a seacoast. One can also describe Poles of Inaccessibility for areas of ocean, in that case representing the point out at sea most distant from a coastline. (The Arctic Pole of Inaccessibility, for example, is that position in the Arctic Ocean.)

The South Pole of Inaccessibility is not as easy to calculate as most others. That’s because the coastline of Antarctica is not exactly straightforward to define. Do you count the coast as the grounding line, where the bedrock shore meets the base of the ice shelves that ring much of Antarctica’s margin? Or do you treat the ice shelves themselves, affixed as they are to the landmass and representing the seaward extensions of the interior ice sheets and glaciers, as part of the Antarctic continent? If you do, you have to also account for the fact that the ice-shelf outline is not static; variations in rates of flow, calving events, and other factors regularly alter the shape and area of the shelves.

One common location used for the South Pole of Inaccessibility is the abandoned and mostly snow-buried Point of Inaccessibility Research Station, established by the Soviet Antarctic Expedition in 1958. This is one of the most notable of Antarctica’s historical landmarks on account of its farflung location and still-visible bust of Vladimir Lenin, but it’s actually not located at the South Pole of Inaccessibility at this point. (It’s been called the “Historical” South Pole of Inaccessibility.”)

A 2021 study published in Polar Record identified two candidates for the South Pole of Inaccessibility. One is based on the “outer” Antarctic coast—that is, the coast as taken to include the fringing ice shelves. This “Outer South Pole of Inaccessibility,” the authors estimated, sits at about 83° 54’ S, 64° 53’ E. Meanwhile, an “Inner South Pole of Inaccessibility,” reckoned by excluding ice shelves and considering only the bedrock coast of Antarctica, sits at about 83°37’ S, 53° 43’ E.

Earth’s Poles of Cold are the coldest-recorded locations in the northern and southern polar zones. Officially speaking, the South Pole of Cold is at Russia’s Vostok Station on the Polar Plateau of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, where the coldest temperature ever directly measured on Earth, -89.2 °C (-128.6 °F), occurred in the austral winter of 1983.

But, as you can read much more about in our article, “How Cold is Antarctica & What is the Coldest Place on Earth?”, Vostok Station is almost assuredly not the coldest place on the White Continent: Satellite measurements have recorded temperatures as low as -93.2 °C (-135.8 °F) on the ice ridge between Dome Argus and Dome Fuji on the Polar Plateau, and research suggests the East Antarctic Ice Sheet’s ice divide may get even colder than that in high-elevation hollows.

Only the best-equipped and hardiest explorers would steer their way to the South Pole of Inaccessibility or the offshore South Magnetic Pole. If you land a job at (or somehow arrange a visit to) Vostok Station, you can sort of say you’ve been to the South Pole of Cold, though the true Pole of Cold in Antarctica—dizzylingly remote and inaccessible—would be somewhere off on the high, icy wastes of the Polar Plateau’s domes and ice ridges.

But visiting the Ceremonial South Pole and even the actual Geographic South Pole close by is more feasible, though it’s still but a comparative minority of Antarctic sightseers who travel (by plane) to the Scott-Amundsen South Pole Station. It’s certainly something to dream about for adventure tourists!

And in the meantime, you can journey there virtually anytime thanks to the South Pole Live Camera, positioned atop the Atmospheric Research Observatory at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.

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