1996 Certified Position of the Magnetic North Pole
By Polar Race organiser, Jock Wishart
It is in retrospect that I realise, only now, what a good idea it
has subsequently proved to have certified the position of the
Magnetic North Pole some 9 years ago when we organised the
Ultimate Challenge expedition — the first time a
group of novices had been organised in an expedition to walk to
any Pole. At the time, in 1996, it was the preserve of a few
hardened professionals or, as when we started out even earlier in
1991, as individuals who dared and simply got lucky.
How times have changed as a result of that expedition!
Jock Wishart marking the route to the Pole
At the time my good friend David Hempleman-Adams suggested that it
would be important to certify the position of the Pole, for the
Canadian authorities, to compare it with the computer model of its
location. This gave the expedition a scientific purpose as well.
Certifying the position of the Pole had not been attempted for
many years, principally for lack of funding.
Already busy at the time, I was a little reluctant (to say the
least) to take on yet another responsibility to handle the
logistics behind an expedition that had never been done before as
well as the demands of the BBC who were also attempting a first in
some live coverage of such an exercise.
To cut a long story short, I was persuaded, and for 25 days we
lugged a magnetometer and theodolite with us taking measurements
on a daily basis until we were able to confirm the Pole's
location as N 78°35.7' W 104°11.9', some 8 to 10 miles
from the computer model's projected position. I remember at the
time switching on a digital compass before going to sleep to see
what would happen!
I had to confess at the end it was a satisfying exercise and, as
it turned out because of the now erratic movements of the Pole,
vitally important that we had done so. Though we were not to know
Now of course it has become an established mark for many. Little
did I think at the time that by certifying a position we would end
up establishing a focus and goal for so many in years to come.
2 May 2022