Little Bits of History

Pole of Inaccessibility

Posted in History by patriciahysell on December 14, 2015
Southern Pole of Inaccessibility*

Southern Pole of Inaccessibility*

December 14, 1958: The 3rd Soviet Antarctic Expedition reaches the Pole of Inaccessibility. The International Geophysical Year (IGY) lasted from July 1, 1957 to December 31,1958. Scientific sharing had been interrupted by Stalin’s control over the USSR. After his death in 1953, a break in the Cold War was possible and the scientific community came together to celebrate. There were 67 countries participating in the IGY which covered eleven Earth sciences. Belgian Marcel Nicolet was elected secretary general of the association which was able to increase the world’s knowledge base tremendously in this short time. For instance, both the USSR and the US were able to launch satellites during this time frame.

The 3rd Soviet Antarctic Expedition was part of the IGY push even though it was not completed during the time frame. IV Maksimov led the marine expedition which had two ships which held 445 men. Of them, 183 were scheduled to winter in Antarctica with Yevgeny Tolstikov leading the land expeditions. Their first task was to continued the IGY program and relieve the 1956-58  continental expedition. But they were also supposed to organize the Sovetskaya station at the pole of relative inaccessibility.

This is problematic to find as it is the point on the Antarctic continent most distant from the Southern Ocean. The issue comes from how to measure for such a location. Because of this, a number of coordinates have been given for the exact point. It is possible to create a point based on the land mass itself. It is also possible to base the position based on the ice shelf covering the land mass, but even in the 1950s, that was not a constant configuration. The ice shelf moves and icebergs are calved. And then there are the measurements themselves and the typographical errors possible. Today, the location of the Russian research station established during this first visit is given the name. The southern pole of inaccessibility is 548 miles away from the South Pole and is at an elevation of 12,198 feet.

This area is far more remote and is much harder to reach than the South Pole which was also reached on this date in 1911 (see below). Tolstikov’s team arrived and set up a temporary station before returning. In 1967, a second Soviet team returned and built a structure which still stands today. In 2006, a team of men took a trip to the historic pole of inaccessibility without direct mechanical assistance. They traveled by traditional man hauling and kite skiing. They reached the abandoned building on January 20, 2007 and discovered not only the building, but a statue of Lenin left there 48 years before. Due to improvements in technology and more accurate measuring, the pole of inaccessibility has been found to be located in a slightly different position.

It is difficult to live in the present, ridiculous to live in the future and impossible to live in the past. Nothing is as far away as one minute ago. – Jim Bishop

Better do a good deed near at home than go far away to burn incense. – Amelia Earhart

Without a family, man, alone in the world, trembles with the cold. – Andre Maurois

If the world seems cold to you, kindle fires to warm it. – Lucy Larcom

Also on this day:  Queen of Gems – In 1656, the first fake pearl was made.
Strong Men; Great Leaders – In 1751, the first military academy was begun in Austria.
Bushidō  – In 1702, the 47 Ronin avenged their daimyo.
Up, Up and Away – In 1782, the Montgolfier brothers took to the air in their flying balloon.
South Pole or Bust – In 1911, Roald Amundsen made it to the South Pole.

* “Southern Pol of Inaccessibility Henry Cookson team n2i” by Cookson69 at English Wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons –


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