May 12

North Pole Day

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Fogbow at the North Pole
Photo by Sam Dobson, 2011
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"O proudly name their names who bravely sail
To seek brave lost in Arctic snows and seas!"

~ An Arctic Quest, Helen Hunt Jackson (1830-1885)

In the Arctic, people can sometimes see and hear phenomena that are not detectable on most other places on Earth. Microscopic ice crystals are suspended in the air, changing how light and sound travel over distances. Some of the fascinating optical and acoustical phenomena that have been observed in the arctic, include: auroras, coronas (rings of light around the moon or sun), anticoronas (colored rings of light that appear around shadows cast by an observer onto fog or a cloud), water sky (the dark appearance of the underside of a cloud layer when it is over a surface of open water), ice blink (observable detection of light-reflecting ice which may be too far away to see normally), fata morgana (a complex mirage in which distant objects are distorted as well as elongated vertically), optical haze (also called "shimmer" which blurs objects), halos (a distanced well defined ring around the sun), sundogs (vertical pillars of light/rainbows on either side of the sun), whiteout (an indistinguishable snow and sky), and fogbows (colorless rainbows)!

Today marks the date of the first verified attainment of the North Pole.


From the official tartan register: "Almost identical in colours to the Antarctic tartan, (the Antarctic has yellow instead of green) and mirrored in geographical design, they are twin tartans, 'poles apart' in geography and wildlife and yet 'poles together' in what they symbolise and the conservation issues that they are designed to help."

Although there are many well known claims for achievement of the pole, most have been disputed or disproven.


The first consistent, verified, and scientifically convincing attainment of the Pole was on 12 May 1926, by Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen and his US sponsor Lincoln Ellsworth from the airship Norge. Norge, though Norwegian-owned, was designed and piloted by the Italian Umberto Nobile. The flight started from Svalbard in Norway, and crossed the Arctic Ocean to Alaska. Nobile, with several scientists and crew from the Norge, overflew the Pole a second time on 24 May 1928, in the airship Italia. The Italia crashed on its return from the Pole, with the loss of half the crew.


For fascinating optical and acoustical phenomena of the arctic, including auroras, coronas, anticoronas, water sky, ice blink, fata morgana, optical haze, halos, sundogs, and whiteout, click the fogbow at the North Pole, taken by Sam Dobson in 2011.

Officially registered tartan graphics on this site courtesy of The Scottish Tartans Authority.  Other tartans from talented tartan artists may also be featured.

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