The Sea of the Dead by Barry Wolverton, the third and final book in The Chronicles of the Black Tulip series, is in stores TODAY – huzzah!!! – and this Christmastime release date is made even more special by the fact that the book includes an expedition to the North Pole.
So to celebrate today’s release, and this most festive time of year, we bring you 10 Fun Facts About the North Pole.
#1 – Water Logged
While the South Pole is situated on a continental land mass (Antarctica), the North Pole is in the middle of the Arctic Ocean, where the waters are almost always covered in shifting sea ice – although some studies predict that at some point the North Pole may become free of ice seasonally due to the changing climate and earth’s temperatures generally rising every year.
The nearest land is usually said to be a tiny island off the northern coast of Greenland (called Kaffeklubben Island – that’s a mouthful!) and the closest, permanently inhabited place is a tiny city in Nunavut, Canada, located about 508 miles south of the Pole.
#2 – Floating Research Stations
The North Pole’s location means it’s impractical to build a permanent station there like the one found at the South Pole. That said, over the years, Russia (and the Soviet Union) has built a number of drifting stations dating back to 1937 that have at times passed over or very close to the Pole.
Since 2002, Russia has also maintained an annual ice camp base called Barneo, on an ice floe near the North Pole. The camp is rebuilt from scratch every year because the ice there is constantly drifting, and it is usually operational for only one month a year.
#3 – Santa’s Zip Code
It’s fairly well known in popular culture that Santa’s mythical workshop is found at the North Pole. But do you know the zip code where you send mail to Santa?
Canada Post assigned the postal code H0H 0H0 (“ho ho ho”) for mail sent to Santa Claus. More than 11,000 current & former employees known as “Postal Elves” volunteer every year to help respond to the letters. They come in many languages, sometimes even Braille! Letters should be addressed to:
North Pole H0H 0H0
(You can also send letters to Santa via the USPS, but the mailing address is not nearly as adorable.)
#4 – Why DOES Santa live at the North Pole?
We all know that Santa lives and works in the North Pole, but where did that part of the Santa myth originate?
The modern version of Santa is generally credited to German-born, American cartoonist Thomas Nast, and it’s believed he was the first to show Santa’s workshop being located at the North Pole in a series of illustrations in the 1860s and 1870s. (Nast is also well known for his political cartoons, and is credited with creating the elephant as the symbol of the Republican Party and popularizing the donkey symbol for the Democrats.)
Although the North Pole is generally considered “fact” when it comes to Santa’s home base, several Nordic territories also claim to be the location of his workshop.
#5 – Earliest Expeditions
In The Sea of the Dead, Bren and his companions embark on an expedition to the North Pole in the year 1601 – following in the footsteps of other previous explorers. But the book is set in an “alternate history,” and in real life the earliest recorded expeditions to the North Pole took place in the early 19th century – more than 200 years later than Bren. Most early expeditions to the Pole went in search of passage through the ice floes.
One of the earliest recorded expeditions was lead by British Naval officer William Parry, who reached latitude 82°45′ North in 1827 – and held the record for the Northernmost human exploration until 1875. But many expeditions in the 19th century were far less successful, ending in disaster or death.
Although several explorers claimed to have reached the North Pole over the 19th and 20th centuries, the first convincing and verified successful mission to the North Pole was made in 1926 by Roald Amundsen, Lincoln Ellsworth, and Umberto Nobile, who flew by airship from Svalbard in Norway.
The first men to actually set foot on the North Pole were a group of Soviet scientists and explorers in 1948. And the first crew to successfully reach the North Pole via land (that is, they didn’t fly) was a group in 1968 that traveled by snowmobile: Ralph Plaisted, Walt Pederson, Gerry Pitzl and Jean Luc Bombardier.
#6 – Hot Vacation Spot?
Believe it or not, it actually is possible to visit the North Pole (if you can afford it, at least). Several companies offer trips to the North Pole by air or icebreaker. Most tourist expeditions leave from the town of Longyearbyen, the capital of the Svalbard archipelago of Norway.
Some commercial airline flights on Polar routes pass very close to the North Pole now, sometimes coming as close as latitude 89° N (the North Pole is situated at 90°.)
#7 – Not the Coldest
It’s not that the North Pole is exactly tropical – temperatures generally never get much above freezing in even the warmest months – but it is considerably warmer than the South Pole.
Why? Let’s revisit the first point on this list: it’s located in the middle of the ocean, which helps retain heat.
The warmest recorded temperature at the North Pole was 55 °F; in the winter, temperatures drop to anywhere from 58 below to 9 °F.
#8 – A Single Sunset
You’ve heard of the long hours of daylight in Alaska summers, and the long hours of darkness in Alaska winters? Well, it’s even more extreme at the North Pole – where the sun sets and rises only once per year. The sun rises right around the March equinox and remains above the horizon until right around the September equinox. The area also sees a couple weeks of “twilight” just before sunrise and just after sunset.
#9 – Arctic Wildlife
While Santa’s residency may be in question, the Arctic Circle is home to many animals: polar bears, reindeer, seals, Arctic foxes, Beluga and Orca whales, narwhals, and puffins.
FUN FACT! The Sea of the Dead author Barry Wolverton also wrote a book about a puffin and other animals living in the Arctic Circle, called Neversink.
That said, most don’t venture far above 80° North (because it’s harder to find food), although an expedition in 2006 recorded seeing a polar bear as close as 1 mile from the North Pole.
One animal you’ll never see in the North Pole? Penguins. They live in the South Pole.
#10 – It’s a City
Well, sort of. There is a city outside of Fairbanks, Alaska called North Pole – but it is located about 1700 miles south of the actual North Pole. It’s usually where most letters to Santa are addressed in the U.S., and many of the city’s streets have Christmas-themed names, such as Santa Claus Lane, St. Nicholas Drive, Snowman Lane, and Kris Kringle Drive.
Today’s code word: VOYAGES
An engrossing fantasy, a high-seas adventure, an alternate history epic—this is the richly imagined and gorgeously realized third book in acclaimed author Barry Wolverton’s Chronicles of the Black Tulip, perfect for fans of The Glass Sentence and the Books of Beginning series.
After the harrowing and life-changing events at the Dragon’s Gate, Bren wants nothing more than to make his way back to England. Finding the answers to the great mysteries he’d been chasing only found him questioning why he’d ever pursued them in the first place, and now he’s lost his best friend, forever. There’s nothing left for him but to return home and hope his father hasn’t given up on him.
But just because Bren is done with adventure does not mean adventure is done with him. On his way to escape from China, Bren is gifted a rare artifact, with a connection to a place no one has set foot upon. Soon he’s fallen in with a mysterious Indian noblewoman bent on discovering an ancient power and leading her country against colonial rule.
The only way home, it seems, is through helping her—and as Bren wonders what she’s willing to sacrifice in order to return home a hero, he must ask himself the same questions.