Dec 24th, 2019

How Far is the North Pole?

Posted in Aviation News

As I type on this Christmas Eve, the thought occurred to me, how far is it to the North Pole? 

The North Pole from Above

The North Pole lies at Latitude 89.999 and Longitude 0.  From the Equator the North Pole is 10, 010 kilometers and change.  For those of us use more familiar with miles, that computes to 6,220 miles.  That roughly computes to driving from New York City to Los Angeles, back to New York and then over to Chicago.  It’s a bit of a trip to the North Pole and it likely lacks the scenery and rest stops the US only trip would offer.

Speaking of Chicago, if one boarded a plane in America’s third largest city and flew to the North Pole it would cover a distance of 3,327 miles.  That would be about an eight-hour flight.

North Pole (click here for photo credit)

Of course, it would be difficult to land at the North Pole due to the fact, that unlike the South Pole, there is no land mass.  It lies in the middle of the Arctic Sea.  It is covered with shifting sea ice.

When I researched who was the first to arrive at the North Pole, I discovered there is a bit of controversy.  In an article produced by the University of California, Santa Barbara, a number of individuals claim the honor. 

Svalbard

The Air Force was there to confirm on April 19, 1968, that Ralph Plaisted, Walt Pederson, Gerry Pitzl and Jean Luc Bombardier, reached the North Pole by traveling on snowmobiles.  Even more impressive was the feat of Wally Herbert and his team the next year.  They departed from Barrow Alaska, on foot with the aid of sled dogs.  The team reached the North Pole on April 6.  They then continued on sled and foot until they reached Svalbard, thus completely crossing the Arctic Ocean on foot!  By way of note, Svalbard is a group of islands belonging to Norway.  The set of island lies within the Arctic Circle and is halfway between Norway and the North Pole.

Svalbard, part of Norway
British Airways 1977

My first aviation encounter with the North Pole was in June of 1977.  As part of a high school exchange program, a group of about 15 teenagers and two brave teachers boarded a British Airways jet.  The jet flew us from Anchorage Alaska to London England using the Arctic Circle route.  About hallway through the flight the captain announced that the North Pole was off to our left.  I snapped several pictures out of the small aircraft window.  I would post the picture, but cannot find it, and if I could it would consist of a bunch of low-lying white clouds. 

The Arctic route is routinely use by jet traffic between the Northern Hemisphere of the America’s and Europe as well as the far East.  The route is popular as it saves flying time and fuel costs. As a footnote, as to the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ, it would be a 6,190-mile flight from Chicago to Bethlehem, if the small town in Israel had a long enough runway on which to land.

Bethlehem, Birthplace of Jesus Christ

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