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North Pole on the Move

The magnetic North Pole is leaving Canada and will eventually wind up in Russia. Larry Newitt, of the Geological Survey of Canada, says, "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."

The Earth's magnetic field comes from its outer core, and is produced by the movement of molten iron 1,850 miles below the surface. It's also influenced by charged particles from the sun. The magnetic North Pole is different from the geographic North Pole, which is a fixed point on the planet. The magnetic pole is currently 600 miles from the geographic one.

Because the magnetic pole is in the Arctic Ocean right now, scientists have to wait for the right time of year to study it. "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.

It?s a short plane ride away from Resolute Bay, one of Canada's most northerly settlements. Its 200 residents like to wear a T-shirt that says, "Resolute is not the end of the world, but you can see it from here."

Despite its remote location, tourists come to Resolute who want to visit the North Pole. In 1984, Newitt was approached by a newlywed couple. He says, "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."

Many mysteries can be found, if you know where to look.

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