What comes to mind when you think about the North Pole? Do dreamy visions of Santa's busy, toy-building elves, singing snowmen and a red-nosed reindeer appear? How about Santa Claus prepping his team on Christmas Eve for another successful year of delivering gifts to children all over the world? Growing up, the North Pole always seemed like a magical and wondrous place so far away, a mystical place that no one truly knew about -- other than the fact that it was the place Santa Claus lived. However, as we've gotten older and outgrown some of these stories, the question still remains: What do we actually know about this mysterious place we call the North Pole?
One assumption we've had about the North Pole is actually pretty accurate. It is freezing (or near freezing) cold. While National Geographic states that the North Pole is actually warmer than the South Pole, you won't be throwing on your bathing suit and go swimming. A summer day is typically just at the freezing point, which is 0 degrees Celsius, or 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
So, where is the North Pole geographically? It's right smack in the middle of the Arctic Ocean. This 13,123-foot mass of drifting ice is often difficult for researchers to study -- and is also difficult for animals to make a permanent home on. In fact, most of what the North Pole sits on is water covered in ice, about 6- to 10-feet thick. Two recognizable countries that reside close to the North Pole are Canada's Nunavut territory and Greenland. So if you're in any of those countries, you might want to pay a visit to the North Pole!
One of the most interesting facts about the North Pole is how it responds to sunlight. According to National Geographic, the Earth rotates on a tilted axis when it revolves around the sun; therefore, the sunlight received is often extreme at the poles. As a result, the North Pole only experiences one sunrise and one sunset all year long. The sunrise happens during the March equinox, while the sunset happens during the September equinox. During the summer, the sun shines from above the horizon, and during the winter, it shines from below. As a result, the North Pole can receive up to 24 hours of sunlight in the summer, and 24 hours of darkness in the winter. Thus, your dreams of endless summer days can easily become a reality at the North Pole -- but prepare for a lot of winter nights afterward.
Now, you're probably thinking there is no way anyone could possibly live and thrive at the North Pole. However, there are some animals that do try. In fact, National Geographic states that polar bears often wander around there looking for food. Although there are many birds that visit the North Pole, it is temporary, and primarily motivated by migration. Unsurprisingly, there are no humans who live here, either -- not even Santa Claus.
So where did Saint Nicholas of Myra (Santa Claus) actually live? According to Smithsonian's Natasha Geiling, he didn't live anywhere near the North Pole, but instead in what is known today as Turkey. There are other options to visit the "North Pole" that you've grown up knowing and loving. In Rovaniemi, Finland, there exists a place called Santa Claus Village. This village was constructed in the 1950s and truly gained traction and popularity in the '80s. Today, Santa Claus Village attracts more than 500,000 people per year! It offers a wonderful opportunity to experience the magic of Christmas and the "North Pole."
Even though the North Pole will always conjure some of our fondest childhood memories, and remind us of how our young imaginations were fascinated by the mythical place. But with more knowledge, we can still appreciate what a unique place it truly is.