Where is the South Pole?
When not otherwise qualified, the term South Pole normally refers to the Geographic South Pole – the southernmost point on the surface of the Earth, on the opposite side of the Earth from the North Pole. Other ‘South Poles’ described include the Ceremonial South Pole, the South Magnetic and Geomagnetic Poles, and the Southern Pole of Inaccessibility.
The Geographic South Pole is defined for most purposes as one of two points where the Earth’s axis of rotation intersects its surface (the other being the Geographic North Pole). However, the Earth’s axis of rotation is actually subject to very small ‘wobbles’. The projection of the Geographic South Pole onto the celestial sphere gives the South Celestial Pole.
Is Antarctica located over the South Pole?
At present, Antarctica is located over the South Pole, although this has not been the case for all of Earth’s history because of continental drift. The land (ie rock) at the South Pole lies near sea level, but the ice cap is 3000 metres thick so the surface is actually at high altitude. The polar ice sheet it moving at a rate of roughly 10 metres per year, so the exact position of the Pole, relative to the ice surface and the buildings constructed on it, gradually shifts over time. The South Pole marker is repositioned each year to reflect this.
Geography activity: Key stages 1 and 2
Ask the pupils to discuss how we get to Antarctica or the Arctic regions. Getting to the North or South Poles is a little more complicated! Discuss with the pupils where Antarctica or the Arctic regions are in relation to where they live. Ask them to locate the places on a globe and in an atlas, identify the nearest airports and mark, on a base map, the route a flight might take.
Finally, ask the pupils to find out a little more about how people might get around once in the Arctic or Antarctic regions. There are no ports and harbours in Antarctica; most coastal stations have offshore anchorages, and supplies are transferred from ship to shore by small boats, barges, and helicopters. Twenty-seven stations have aircraft and helicopter landing facilities. There is more developed transportation in the Arctic, but the freezing cold conditions restrict the types of transport that can be used.