National Geographic Daily News
Photo of a man at the South Pole.

Oscar Wisting was one of five Norwegians at the South Pole with explorer Roald Amundsen in 1911.

  Photograph by Lordprice Collection/ Alamy

Jane J. Lee

National Geographic

Published December 13, 2013

Prince Harry and a group of 12 servicemen and women from around the world reached the south pole on Friday, organizers have announced.

The group undertook the three-week trek to raise money and awareness for the U.K.-based Walking With the Wounded charity, which helps wounded armed forces members.

The British prince's group ended up at the geographic south pole, the southernmost point on Earth. If you stuck a pole all the way through the planet along its axis of rotation, it would poke out the bottom at the  geographic south pole.

But there's more than one south pole. In fact, there are three.

The geographic south pole is the place where all the lines of longitude converge in the Southern Hemisphere.

Its only marker is a stake with a sign honoring the first explorers to reach the geographic south pole—Roald Amundsen and Robert Scott—in 1911 and 1912, respectively. But since the whole shebang rests on a moving ice sheet, the marker must be repositioned every year to account for the roughly 33 feet (10 meters) of travel per year. (See "South Pole Expeditions Then and Now: How Does Their Food and Gear Compare?")

Map of Antarctica showing the geographic south pole in relation to the magnetic south pole, which is shifting every year and is now located in the ocean.

Other South Poles

The pole your compass points toward when you head south is the magnetic south pole. That pole suffers from a case of wanderlust, moving northwest toward Australia at six to nine miles (10 to 15 kilometers) per year.

The magnetic south pole is defined by where Earth's magnetic field lines come vertically out of the surface of the Earth. Since the field is generated by the rotation of Earth's fluid core, it doesn't always stay in the same place. (Read about how researchers track the magnetic south pole.)

And then there's the ceremonial south pole, which has been set aside for photo opportunities.

A short walk from the geographic south pole, the ceremonial pole is marked by a red and white striped pole topped with a shiny, chrome-colored sphere. The area is surrounded by the flags of the Antarctic Treaty signatory countries.

It too must be moved every year so it doesn't drift too far from the geographic south pole.

Follow Jane J. Lee on Twitter.

25 comments
Wian Van den Berg
Wian Van den Berg

Dear National Geographic


My name is Wian van den Berg and I am a South African. I am also a frequent reader of National Geographic and one of your 18 million followers on Facebook. Therefore, I am aware of how insignificant my opinion is; if you take into consideration the contribution you have made to humanity and conservation. However, if I may, I would like to point out to you that in the above article the photograph, copyrighted to Galen Rowell, is out of date and the use of it, especially in the wake of recent events, is insensitive to say the least. I have researched similar photographs on the internet and I can proudly say that the Apartheid Flag no longer flies in the South Pole and neither does it in South Africa.


I trust you will correct your mistake.


Sincerely

현대 신
현대 신

좋읍니다..  태극기도 보였으면 더 좋을려만.

Max Friedenberg
Max Friedenberg

I'm pretty sure that the magnetic south pole isn't even on the Antarctic continent any more. It's off the coast, "in" the water, here: http://bit.ly/1jcGLiN


Wreford White
Wreford White

Tricia Rose:

If you look carefully you can see a small version of the Union Flag on the centre white bar of the South African flag

Wreford White
Wreford White

You gotta love the Political Incorrectness of showing the old South African flag in the pic. Not that I mind, it looks better to me than the rainbow 'Y' fronts.

Kevin Tytgat
Kevin Tytgat

Wow, even the people with National Geographic get the position of the magnetic north and south pole wrong... The magnetic south pole is in Canada, near the geographic north pole and the magnetic north pole is near the geographic south pole. It's sad that even Wikipedia got this right. 

For those who aren't convinced: the magnetic lines are always oriented towards the south pole (http://magnetisch.tripod.com/pics/Magnetisme_veldlijnen2.jpg). The magnetic arrow of your compass orients itself along the magnetic lines (so in the same direction) of the earth, thus pointing towards the magnetic south pole near the geographic north pole (http://www.unc.edu/depts/oceanweb/turtles/geomag.gif)

Hubert Rademeyer
Hubert Rademeyer

I don't care which South Pole he reached......can't he just get a job, earn his own money and stop living and partying on the British people's taxpayer's money? 

Marco Valcelli
Marco Valcelli

I would like to compare 2 cities on my computer screen at the same scale, ex.  1:1000000, how do I do that ?  can anybody help ?  Marco

Dwayne LaGrou
Dwayne LaGrou

I just want to see where the alien space ship is frozen in the ice! Ha, Ha!

Donald Lyttle
Donald Lyttle

I do think there is a bit of a disreputable con going on here. The countries with a claim in the Artic are the countries contiguous with the region i.e. Russia, Denmark, Canada and US. The countries contiguous to Antarctica are Africa, Australia and Argentina and Chile. They should be the primary signatories to any treaty. 

Tricia Rose
Tricia Rose

@Wreford White So I can understand the Norwegian flag being in the middle, Scott was British, obviously not important enough,  we have the French flag, the USA flag and you name it flag!!


Anton Gordon
Anton Gordon

@Tricia Rose If you look carefully under the Chilean flag you can see a corner of it peeking out! It's actually the right-most flag. 

Joao Pimentel
Joao Pimentel

@Kevin Tytgat  No need to get upset. At least the definition in the article is coherent: "The magnetic south pole is defined by where Earth's magnetic field lines come vertically out of the surface of the Earth."


Besides, you can interpret it simply as "the magnetic pole of Earth located in the south" (as they did), instead of as "the south pole of the Earth's magnetic field".

Danish Haider
Danish Haider

@Hubert Rademeyer you should care what south is, and gallant him because he was the person who discover our world's climate control region.

Donald Lyttle
Donald Lyttle

@anne boad @Donald Lyttle 


They ( the African Union ) don't realise they have a claim, because they do not realise the powers that be are jockeying to claim more control over the Earth's landmass, before the developing countries ( with a more legitimate claim ) can. After all Russia is preparing to go to war over the Arctic and its Gas and oil reserves. What do you think the oil and Gas reserves are like on Antarctica?

Donald Lyttle
Donald Lyttle

@Eric Owino @Donald Lyttle 


I take your point, however likethe USA , China and Russia, Africa is emerging as Federated Union and hopefully the outsiders like the European Union, the Indian Subcontinent, China and the Middle-eastern countries will not be able to stop that from happening. Divided we fall.

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