Visit The South Pole

90°S 0°

The epitome of polar exploration, the revered South Pole is the most southerly point on Earth, a frozen desert at the heart of Antarctica, and the jewel in the crown of polar explorers.

Introduction

The South Pole is a frozen landmass on an icy, windswept plateau at 2,835 m (9,301 ft) above sea level. Unlike the North Pole on a frozen ocean, the South Pole has land under it. It is considered one of the planet’s most extreme destinations and hard to reach destinations. To get it is to experience something that only some have ever achieved. Standing on the South Pole is considered one of the outstanding polar achievements, along with reaching the North Pole and traversing the Greenland Ice Cap. 

The South Pole was first reached on December 14, 1911, by the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, who promptly raised the Norwegian flag at the most southerly point on Earth. He narrowly beat his rival, British explorer Robert Falcon Scott, by just 33 days. Scott would later perish in the frozen wilderness, never completing his Transantarctic expedition. 

Today, reaching the South Pole relatively quickly by flight is possible. For seasoned polar explorers, reaching the South Pole through a land-based expedition is possible.

Ways to Visit The South Pole

South Pole Flights

Fly To The South Pole

It is a truly adventurous expedition to fly to the South Pole and camp in luxury pods during the short summer season. No polar experience or training is required.

South Pole Expeditions

Combine an expedition to the South Pole with adventure activities in Antarctica. No polar experience or training is required.

To find out more details about all the ways of reaching the South Pole, including expeditions, please see our guide, How to Get To The South Pole.

Best Time to Visit The South Pole

The best time to visit the South Pole is from December to January during the middle of the Antarctic summer. Due to the extreme weather and temperatures at the South Pole for the rest of the year, the window for flying to the South Pole is limited to these two months. 

During December and January, visitors will experience milder temperatures and 24 hours of glorious sunlight illuminating the captivating polar wilderness. 

To help you plan your visit to the South Pole, please see our guide below on the differences between the months.

Best time to visit the South Pole

Where is the South Pole?

where is the south pole

The geographic South Pole is the southernmost place on Earth, close to Antarctica’s centre, where all of the Earth’s lines of longitude meet together at a single point. Standing on the South Pole, you will face north in every direction. 

Unlike the North Pole on the frozen Arctic Ocean, the South Pole has a landmass underneath it covered permanently by an icecap. The ice depth at the South Pole is estimated to be 2800 metres before you reach the land under it.  

The nearest permanent civilization to the South Pole is Puerto Williams, Chile, the most Southern town on Earth. This does not include various scientific bases on Antarctica itself, which do not have a permanent population.

South Pole Wildlife

Due to its extreme location and considering it is the windiest, coldest desert on Earth, no animals live on the South Pole itself, although it could be possible to see birds there a long way off course. 

The wildlife in Antarctica is situated closer to its coastline, where conditions are more supportive of wildlife such as penguins and seals. It is possible to encounter wildlife on the journey to the South Pole. Our South Pole expeditions include a flight to meet a rarely visited colony of emperor penguins close to the Weddell Sea in a small group of just 12. 

For the best chances of encountering Antarctica’s wildlife, we highly recommend an Antarctica luxury expedition cruise that will make landings at wildlife sights, including penguin colonies, seal haulouts and excellent opportunities for whale watching. 

Please see our guide to learn more about the wildlife you can encounter in Antarctica.

South Pole wildlife Emperor Penguin colony in Antarctica

South Pole Weather and Climate

South Pole mountains in Antarctica in perfect weather

The South Pole is colder than the North Pole and experiences some of Earth’s most extreme cold temperatures. During the Antarctic summer (November to February), temperatures range from about -25 °C to 15°C (13°F to 5°F). In the winter months with total darkness (June to August), temperatures plummet drastically, often reaching as low as -60°C (-76°F) or even lower.

The climate of the South Pole is classed as a desert, one of the driest on Earth. Due to the cold temperatures, there is very little precipitation, primarily occurring as snow. Antarctica is known for its strong katabatic winds and dense, cold air masses that flow downhill from the polar plateau towards the coast. These winds can reach high speeds, sometimes exceeding 100 miles per hour (160 kilometres per hour).

South Pole History

The South Pole has a fascinating history, which began with the first sighting of Antarctica by European explorers in 1820. Norwegian polar explorer Roald Amundsen won the quest to be the first person to reach the South Pole in 1911. Ann Bancroft became the first woman to reach the South Pole on a land-based expedition without flying in 1993.

From Ernest Shackleton’s attempt to be the first man to reach the South Pole in 1907, falling just 97 miles short on his Nimrod expedition, to Robert Falcon Scott’s fateful attempt to beat Amundsen, the South Pole has always been idolized by all true polar explorers.

The history of the South Pole draws travellers to follow in the footsteps of the great explorers and stand on the South Pole, a place few of them ever made it to.

Frank Hurley Trans Antarctic Expedition Historic Photo

Frequently Asked Questions

The South Pole was first reached by a Norwegian explorer named Roald Amundsen. On December 14, 1911, Amundsen and his team reached the geographic South Pole. They used dog sledges to make the journey and were the first to confirm their arrival at the southernmost point of the Earth.

This expedition beat a rival British expedition led by Robert Falcon Scott, who arrived at the South Pole about a month later, in January 1912, only to find that Amundsen had already been there. Tragically, Scott’s entire party perished on their return journey. Amundsen’s successful expedition secured his place in history as the first person to reach the South Pole.

The geographic South Pole is located at 90 degrees south latitude. The longitude lines converge at the South Pole, so it doesn’t have a specific longitude. Therefore, the coordinates for the South Pole are often expressed simply as 90 degrees South latitude and 0 degrees longitude. In the commonly used format, this is written as 90°S, 0°W.

Yes, there is land under the ice at the South Pole. The South Pole is located on the continent of Antarctica, which is covered by a massive ice sheet. The ice is incredibly thick, reaching several kilometres deep in some areas.

The bedrock beneath the ice forms the actual landmass of Antarctica. So, while the South Pole is covered by ice, it sits on a solid landmass, unlike the North Pole, which is situated in the Arctic Ocean and surrounded by floating sea ice. The land under the ice in Antarctica is made of rock and forms the continent’s geological foundation.

The North and South Pole are two distinct geographic locations at opposite ends of the Earth. Here are some key differences between the two:

Geographic Location:

– North Pole: Located at the northernmost point of the Earth, it’s defined as the point where the Earth’s axis of rotation intersects its surface. It’s situated in the Arctic Ocean, covered by shifting sea ice.

– South Pole: Situated at the southernmost point of the Earth, it’s where the Earth’s axis of rotation intersects the Earth’s surface in the Antarctic continent, which is covered by a thick ice sheet.

Climate:

– North Pole: The Arctic climate at the North Pole experiences seasonal changes, with temperatures ranging from extremely cold in winter to relatively milder temperatures in summer. The Arctic is an ocean surrounded by land masses.

– South Pole: The climate at the South Pole is consistently cold, with extremely low temperatures year-round. Antarctica, where the South Pole is located, is a continent covered by a thick ice sheet and experiences colder temperatures than the Arctic.

Accessibility:

– North Pole: The North Pole is predominantly covered by shifting sea ice, making it difficult to reach. During certain times of the year, it’s accessible by icebreakers or specialized expeditions. There’s no stable landmass at the North Pole.

– South Pole: The South Pole is located on the Antarctic continent, with a permanent ice sheet. Access to the South Pole is typically through research stations or specialized flights that land on ice runways. It has a stable landmass beneath the ice.

Human Presence:

– North Pole: There are no permanent human settlements at the North Pole due to the shifting sea ice. However, temporary research stations or camps may be set up for scientific purposes.

– South Pole: The South Pole has a permanent research station, the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, which hosts scientists and support staff throughout the year. It serves as a hub for scientific research in Antarctica.

Ecosystems:

– North Pole: The Arctic region has unique ecosystems adapted to cold conditions, including polar bears, seals, walruses, and various species of fish and birds.

– South Pole: Antarctica’s harsh environment supports limited terrestrial life, mainly of microorganisms, insects like mites and springtails, and marine life in the surrounding waters.

 

These differences showcase the unique characteristics of the North and South Pole, from their geographic locations and climates to accessibility and ecosystems.

The temperature at the South Pole is considerably colder than the North Pole due to its altitude, strong winds and ice-encrusted landscape. 

The South Pole experiences frigid temperatures throughout the year due to its location within Antarctica, characterized by its polar climate. Here’s a general guide to the temperatures at the South Pole on a month-by-month basis:

January:

– Average Temperature: Around -18°C to -28°C (0°F to -18°F)

– January is typically one of the warmest months at the South Pole, though temperatures remain well below freezing. Daylight lasts 24 hours during this time due to the summer solstice.

February:

– Average Temperature: Around -25°C to -35°C (-13°F to -31°F)

– Temperatures begin to drop gradually as the summer months transition towards autumn. Still, 24-hour daylight continues.

March:

– Average Temperature: Around -35°C to -45°C (-31°F to -49°F)

– Autumn sets in, and temperatures continue to decline. By the end of March, the sun starts to dip below the horizon, leading to twilight and darkness.

April:

– Average Temperature: Around -45°C to -55°C (-49°F to -67°F)

– Darkness envelops the South Pole as the sun stays below the horizon for an extended period, leading to a continuous night.

May:

– Average Temperature: Around -55°C to -65°C (-67°F to -85°F)

– The darkness continues, temperatures drop to their lowest levels during the year, with severe cold becoming the norm.

June:

– Average Temperature: Around -60°C to -70°C (-76°F to -94°F)

– Midwinter occurs in late June, marking the shortest day and the longest night. Temperatures remain extremely frigid.

July:

– Average Temperature: Around -60°C to -70°C (-76°F to -94°F)

– Temperatures stay consistently low, and darkness persists.

August:

– Average Temperature: Around -55°C to -65°C (-67°F to -85°F)

– While extremely cold, temperatures rise gradually as the Antarctic winter ends.

September:

– Average Temperature: Around -45°C to -55°C (-49°F to -67°F)

– Spring begins, and daylight returns, leading to twilight and eventually continuous daylight.

October:

– Average Temperature: Around -35°C to -45°C (-31°F to -49°F)

– As daylight increases, temperatures slowly rise but remain well below freezing.

November:

– Average Temperature: Around -25°C to -35°C (-13°F to -31°F)

– With increasing daylight, temperatures continue to rise slightly, signalling the onset of summer.

December:

– Average Temperature: Around -18°C to -28°C (0°F to -18°F)

– Summer officially arrives, and temperatures start to peak for the year. 24-hour daylight resumes during this time.

 

These temperature ranges are general estimates, and fluctuations can occur due to various factors, but the South Pole remains one of the coldest places on Earth throughout the year.

Yes, you can visit the South Pole. If you don’t have any polar experience, the only way to reach the South Pole is on a flight as part of an expedition. Please see our South Pole expeditions to learn more about how to visit the South Pole. 

 

To learn more about how to visit the South Pole, including land-based expeditions, please see our guide, How To Get To The South Pole.

The closest country to the geographic South Pole is Chile. While no country owns the South Pole itself (it’s governed under the Antarctic Treaty System), Chile is the nearest country with a territorial claim close to the South Pole. Chile’s claim is part of the Antarctic region called the Chilean Antarctic Territory, which lies closest to the South Pole compared to other nations’ territorial claims in Antarctica. However, it’s important to note that these claims are not universally recognized, and Antarctica is governed by international agreements focused on scientific research and environmental protection rather than national ownership.

Do you need help planning your expedition?

Our friendly and knowledgeable Travel Experience Team is ready to assist you.

North Pole Cruises – a brand by the Expedition Collective Limited

© 2024 The Expedition Collective

Ask A Question

Do you have a question for our knowledgeable Travel Experience Team? We’re all ears! Just fill out this form, and we will be in touch shortly to answer your question.

Your Guide To Exploring The Polar Regions

Subscribe to be the first to know about new voyages, exclusive offers and insider travel tips.