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Poles of inaccessibility: The hardest places to reach on Earth

By Ken Jennings
October 26, 2017, 1:20:09 PM EDT

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We're talking the actual middle of nowhere. (Photo/Getty)

Explorers and armchair explorers alike have long been fascinated by "poles of inaccessibility." These are the places on the Earth's surface that are equally far from anything, the literal middle of nowhere. On land, they're the points on each continent farthest from any ocean. In the oceans, they're the places that are as far as you can get from dry land. Now one explorer is trying to reach Earth's "last pole"—but time is running out.

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This is the real end of the Earth

The Earth's northernmost pole of inaccessibility, the dead center of the Arctic Ocean, has long been of interest to adventurers. Why? Because it's there. The geographic North Pole is 450 miles north of Greenland, but the Arctic pole of inaccessibility is even more remote—almost 200 miles farther out on the ice. It's the ultimate challenge for a polar explorer. British researcher Jim McNeill has called this spot the "unconquered Everest" of the Arctic.

Finding the middle of an Arctic circle

The easiest way to think about a pole of inaccessibility is in terms of radii; it's a point that's precisely equidistant from three faraway coastlines. The Arctic pole, for example, is exactly 626 miles from three different islands: Ellesmere Island at the northern tip of Canada, Komsomolets Island in Russia's Severanaya Zemlya archipelago, and Henrietta Island in the East Siberian Sea. In other words, if you were to draw the biggest circle possible that the Arctic Ocean can contain, this "pole" is the point at its dead center.

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