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Definition: South Pole from Merriam-Webster's Geographical Dictionary

The S extremity of Earth's axis, at 90°S lat.; S center from which start all meridians of longitude; the point from which the only direction is N. The area around it (South Polar Regions: see polar regions) is a lofty plateau in W cen. part of Antarctica (q.v.). Pole first reached by Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen 1911. See magnetic pole.


Summary Article: South Pole from The Encyclopedia of Tourism and Recreation in Marine Environments

The South Pole is the southern axis of the Earth’s rotation, and the geographic apex of Antarctica. In the midst of the polar plateau, the South Pole is located at an elevation of 2835 m but, because of the latitude, the air pressure equivalent is that of 3230 m.

As one of the great goals of exploration, the ‘race’ to the South Pole captivated the world in the early 20th century. The Norwegian Antarctic Expedition, led by Roald Amundsen, reached the Pole on 14 December 1911, narrowly defeating the British Antarctic Expedition, led by Robert Falcon Scott, who arrived on 17 January 1912. Whilst Amundsen’s party returned safely, Scott’s party perished on their return journey.

Established in 1956, the American Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station was named after these two famous Polar explorers, and is the current human presence at the South Pole. Presently the station is being rebuilt, losing ‘The Dome’, which has been an iconic piece of the station since the 1970s. Also located at the pole is the ceremonial ‘barber’s’ pole, capped by a metallic globe and surrounded by the flags of the 12 original signatories of the Antarctic Treaty. While these structures do not move, each year the true geographic South Pole moves and so there is a long line of markers showing the former ‘Poles’.

Due to the logistical challenges, the USA has largely controlled access to the South Pole. However, for many years private expeditions have travelled overland to reach the pole or cross the continent via the pole (see Fiennes, 1983; Messner, 1991; Philips, 2000). At present, expeditions utilize the experience and logistical support of companies such as Adventure Network International. Adventure Network International operated the first tourist flight to the Pole on 11 January 1988, which, apart from a lengthy overland expedition, is still the only other way a tourist can reach the South Pole.

Patrick T. Maher
© CAB International 2008.

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