These Places Are Actually The Middle of Nowhere

These “poles of inaccessibility” are among the world’s most remote places

The Southern Pole of Inaccessibility. The thing sticking up in the middle is the bust of Lenin. Wikimedia Commons

It’s many degrees below freezing, sort of hard to understand and much more remote than the South Pole: the Southern Pole of Inaccessibility.

On December 14, 1958, the scientists from the Soviet Union were the first to reach it, setting up a research station that was only used for 12 days. The buildings, a four-person hut and an electrical hut, were left there and they remain there today.

The Southern Pole of Inaccessibility is just one of a number of Poles of Inaccessibility around the world: There is one on every landmass, which marks the farthest point from the ocean, and one in each ocean, which marks the farthest point from land. 

Some of these places are, well, places, occupied by people. Some are just occupied by stuff: their profound remoteness means that people have left stuff there–whether, as at the Southern Pole of Inaccessibility, they might want to use it there again, or because they don’t want it being anywhere near them. Here are a few examples:

Southern Pole of Inaccessibility

The Soviet station still sits at this pole of inaccessibility–after the 1958 visit, writes the Norwegian Polar Institute, it’s been visited a few more times. The Soviets visited again in 1964, performing seismic analyses and observing the stars and the glaciers. In 1965, a U.S. expedition stayed there, followed by the Soviets the next year.

The station stayed at the pole all alone for another 40 years, until it was visited in January 2007. At that point, the Institute writes, the hut was buried in ice and couldn’t be uncovered. However, they were able to see some evidence of the station’s location: a bust of Lenin, put there by the Soviets who built it, and a few meteorological masts. According to Wikipedia, it was visited again in 2011.

North American Pole of Inaccessibility

“Not every pole of inaccessibility is found in some far-flung desert or freezing ocean,” writes Eric Grundhauser for Atlas Obscura. “The North American Pole of Inaccessibility is located just outside of a small town in South Dakota.” It can be found in an unmarked location in a gully between the towns of Allen and Kyle, Grundhauser writes.

Arctic Pole of Inaccessibility

The Arctic pole of inaccessibility, which is located in the ocean rather than on land, still hasn’t  been reached, writes Arielle Duhaime-Ross for Scientific American. Because of climate change, it’s on the move. Nobody has ever really decided where it is, she says, and this middle of nowhere remains an unexplored mystery.

Oceanic Pole of Inaccessibility (AKA Point Nemo)

All points of inaccessibility are a little strange. But perhaps the strangest pole of inaccessibility is the oceanic one, the point in the ocean that's farthest away from any land. It's called Point Nemo, after the ship captain in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and it wasn't settled on until 1992. "Experts had long discussed the geographical conundrum of finding the middle of the ocean, but it took modern technology to provide a full solution," writes Ella Davis for the BBC.  

"Point Nemo is so far from land, the nearest humans are often astronauts," she writes. "The International Space Station orbits the Earth at a maximum of 258 miles. Meanwhile, the nearest inhabited landmass to Point Nemo is over 1670 miles away." Because it's so far away from land, Point Nemo has become a dumping ground for space junk. This Spacecraft Cemetery houses a lot of deceased space exploration tools, writes Shannon Stiron for Popular Science. Atmospheric re-entry is kind of unpredictable and difficult. By aiming at the most remote spot in the ocean, this ensures space craft re-enter far, far away from any people. When it's time to decomission the International Space Station, probably around 2028, it will join its fellow space junk in a watery grave.

Editor's note: This article originally misstated the work of fiction where Captain Nemo originates.

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