They reached the earth's axis—
not the magnetic North Pole

90° North


In 1909 the magnetic Pole was at Approx. 72° North (not 90°)

The geographic North Pole
is an "axis" of the earth

The magnetic North Pole
is in Canada

The magnetic pole moves over time.

Visit this website to learn more about the location of the magnetic pole and its movements over time.

(below) Because there was no land at the Pole Peary photographed 4 directions looking south (all directions at the Pole are south) to provide a record that he saw no land.

When we say "Peary discovered the North Pole" we mean his expedition reached 90 degrees North; they attained that geographic point on the earth called an axis. At the North Pole there is no land—only shifting, drifting ice. Since no one knew what was there, they found out—ice! Nothing but ice.

For hundreds of years men had tried to reach this point. Peary achieved a goal that no other expedition had previously been able to accomplish. They learned there is no land at the Pole, so they could not claim anything other than having reached a purely geographical point. Traditionally, explorers left markers to prove where they had been. In fact, Henson and Peary left such markers, called cairns, in many places on Greenland and Ellesmere Island as they explored. At the Pole Peary left a tube with a note and a piece of his flag.

Because it was so easy to travel, Peary sledded in various directions taking sextant readings to check his position. Somewhere he probably passed very near over the Pole but could not find the exact spot. But it really doesn't matter, does it? They were as close as they could determine with their instruments. The work was done.
(left) Notice how smooth the ice looks all around; for about 100 miles around the Pole it is very easy to travel. This is because the ocean is so deep there are fewer of the "pressure ridges" found over shallower regions, or near land.

Home | Table of Contents | Email page | Contact

© 2003. For use of this material see: Terms