First of all, it has to be known where the compass will be placed. Truth to be told, planet Earth actually has two North Poles – the one that at the top of the Earth called the Geographic North Pole and one that is known as the Magnetic North. Both poles are located in different places.
The Geographic North Pole, also called Terrestrial North Pole, is the northernmost point on Earth. It is the exact point where the planet’s axis and surface intersects. It has a latitude of 90 degrees. Since all longitudinal lines meet there, it has no time zone, and all direction is going south. It lies in the middle of the Arctic Ocean, where the water is almost always covered with drifting ice around 2-3 meters or 6-10 feet thick. Its water is around 4,084 meters or 13,123 meters deep.
The Polaris, or the ‘North Star’, lies 434 light-years on the top of the North Pole. The star does not lie or set during the night, but stays at the exact location above the northern axis through the year, while other stars revolve around it. With that, it has been a significant marker for direction and direction for many centuries.
Earth’s globe rotates on an imaginary axis, which is inclined at a 23.5-degree angle. The Geographic North Pole lies on the northern end of the imaginary axis. However, Earth acts as a giant magnet that has a north to south magnetic axis, which does not correlate with the planet’s geographic axis.
The vertical magnetic line, or the magnetic axis, is quite unstable. It keeps on moving depending on the changes in the electric currents created in the Earth’s core. With that, the Magnetic North Pole also moves from time to time. Since it’s constantly shifting from its spot slowly but steadily, no one knows where it will be after some decades!
While the geographic North Pole has stayed on the same spot for many centuries, the Magnetic North Pole has played a ‘catch me if you can’ game on many parts of the world. Around the year 1000 AD, the Magnetic North Pole was located in Western Russia. Then, it gradually moved eastward to the Pacific Ocean around 1300 AD and continued westward, reaching Canada in 1900 AD. Recently, it was located over Ellesmere Island in Canada but is now moving away from North America towards Siberia.
So, what would happen if you place a compass at the Geographic North Pole? The conclusion is that the compass’ need will point south as there all of the direction from there is going south. But, things might be different if you bring a compass at the Magnetic North Pole.
If you are placing the compass horizontally at the Magnetic North Pole, in a way that it is perpendicular with the magnetic, there will be no direction for the needle to point at as location it is designed to be leading to is at your feet! However, if you have any other thing that’s magnetic, the needle of the compass may point to the magnetic field of the said object. You may try to spin the compass’ needle by using the other magnet, but friction will eventually slow it down.
If you are holding the compass sideways at the Magnetic North Pole, one needle end will point straight down the Earth, while the other end will point straight up. But, if you place the compass at a certain angle between sideways and horizontal at the Magnetic North Pole, the compass’ needle will go towards the lowest direction.
It’s good to note that the compass’ needles in planes and ships will always point to the Magnetic North Pole while flights and ship voyages will always be charted based on the geographical directions. Navigators always calculate angles between poles and adjust the routes accordingly.
- North Pole (Wikipedia)
- North Magnetic Pole (Wikipedia)