Poles of Inaccessibility

 

The place on Earth that’s farthest from an ocean is in what nation?

A: Canada
B: China
C: Central African Republic

If you answered with China, give yourself a round of applause. The Eurasian Pole of Inaccessibility is in China, near the border with Kazakhstan, and that pole happens to be the continental version farthest from an ocean in the world. The locale sits about 1,560 miles from the coastline.

A Pole of Inaccessibility is defined as the location most distant from some geographic criterion. In the Eurasian example above, the POI is the point on land farthest from an ocean, but the inverse can also be used.

Worldwide map with distances from coastline or land; dots are at poles of inaccessibility.

Here in North America, the Pole of Inaccessibility is in southwestern South Dakota on the Pine Wood Reservation. This spot is 1,030 miles from the nearest ocean.

South America’s pole is in Brazil, 935 miles from the coast. Australia’s pole is, naturally, in Australia, 570 miles from the ocean. The African pole is 1,127 miles from the coast, near the tripoint of the Central African Republic, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Marker at the Australian Pole of Inaccessibility

The Southern Pole of Inaccessibility is the point in Antarctica farthest from the Southern Ocean. This spot has been notoriously hard to pin down accurately, as the coastline of Antarctica is difficult to define. Is it the spot farthest from complete land or from ice packs? The location is also far more arduous to reach and more remote than the geographic South Pole. The story of reaching this POI is worth doing some further research.

The Northern Pole of Inaccessibility, on the other hand, is the point in the ocean that is farthest from land. It’s 626 miles from the closest landmasses, several islands in the Arctic Ocean. Like in Antarctica, the North Pole and the Northern POI are not at the same location.

The Soviets set up a research station at the Southern POI, erecting a bust of Lenin at the location - photo by Stein Tronstad / Norwegian Polar Institute

The position on Earth farthest from any landmass is the Oceanic Pole of Inaccessibility, also known as Point Nemo. It is 1,670 miles from the nearest island. Nerds will know this location as the home of the fictional city of R’lyeh in H.P. Lovecraft’s The Call of Cthulu. Despite writing the story 66 years before the official discovery of Point Nemo, Lovecraft displayed his otherworldly prescience by setting the story there.

Point Nemo is so remote that often the closest human beings are astronauts in the International Space Station, who pass overhead!

Further Reading and Exploration


The Call of Cthulu – by H.P. Lovecraft (e-book version)

Poles of Inaccessibility – University of California Santa Barbara Geography Department website

These Places Are Actually The Middle of Nowhere – Smithsonian Magazine article on the topic

BBC Article on Point Nemo

Pole of Inaccessibility Research Station – Wikipedia page on defunct Soviet research station in Antarctica

The Pole of Inaccessibility – by Ronald McQueen (e-book version) – a thriller set at the Antarctic station

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