72. North Magnetic Pole (1948)

North Magnetic Pole

The search for the North Magnetic Pole began in 1818 with the British Navy’s campaign to discover the Northwest Passage. Defined as the point at which the compass needle dips at 90ᵒ, we now understand that the pole moves every day along a 120 kilometre elliptical path in response to changes in the Earth’s external magnetic field, and that it is drifting in a north to north-westerly direction.

Dominion Observatory scientists located the Pole in 1948 on Prince of Wales Island using a special electronic instrument developed by Paul Serson that accurately measured and recorded the direction and dip of the magnetic field. Starting in 1953, the same instrument was subsequently adapted for airborne surveys. Further tracking of the pole’s position by the Earth Physics Branch and then the Geological Survey, of Canada used observations from ground surveys and a permanent magnetic observatory established at Resolute Bay.

Continuing its northward movement, by the year 2000 the North Magnetic Pole had moved offshore. It is currently estimated to be near 86.4ᵒ N, 166.3ᵒ W placing it many hundreds of kilometres into the Arctic Ocean and well outside Canadian offshore jurisdiction.

Category: Science Advances

Decade: 1940s


Serson, P.H., 1982. The Search for the North Magnetic Pole; Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada, Series IV, v. XX.

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