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North Pole Keeps Moving

The North Magnetic Pole could leave Canada by 2004, migrate north of Alaska and eventually wind up in Russia, according to Larry Newitt of the Geological Survey of Canada.

The magnetic pole has drifted for decades, but change has accelerated in recent years. If the pole follows its present course, it will pass north of Alaska and arrive in Siberia in 500 years, but Newitt says his predictions could be wrong. ?Although it has been moving north or northwest for a hundred years, it is not going to continue in that direction forever. Its speed has increased considerably during the past 25 years, and it could just as easily decrease a few years from now,? he says.

The pole can jump around each day, but it migrates on average about 6 to 25 miles per year. The North Magnetic Pole is different from the North Terrestrial Pole, the fixed point at the top of the Earth. Right now, the magnetic pole is 600 miles from the geographic one.

Because the magnetic pole lies in the Arctic Ocean, scientists attempting to pinpoint its precise location must visit it during a brief window in the spring. ?We always do this kind of work in May. We need frozen conditions so that we can land an airplane anywhere on ice or snow, but not so cold that it is impossible to work outdoors,? Newitt says.

The North Magnetic Pole is resurveyed about once every decade. But Newitt and colleagues, who last studied the site in 2001, will survey it again in 2003 due to its accelerated migration.

The pole is a short plane ride away from Resolute Bay, Canada?s most northerly settlement of 200 people, where many residents wear a T-shirt that says, ?Resolute is not the end of the world, but you can see it from here.? Tourists occasionally visit the town, searching for polar bears or Santa Claus. During a 1984 survey of the pole, Newitt and colleagues were approached by a newlywed couple. ?When they heard we were going to the pole they asked if they could hitch a ride. When asked why they wanted to go there, they replied that they wanted to conceive their child there,? Newitt says. The honeymooners didn?t make the trip, but other couples, who believe the location increases fertility, have chartered small planes to the spot and set up tents on the ice.

Nothing about the magnetic field at the pole would have a significant effect on humans, Newitt says, but adds, ?It would be interesting to track the children of these polar trysts for the next couple of decades.?

Would they be Indigo Children? click here.

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