The Geographic North Pole or Terrestrial North Pole, is defined as the point in the Northern Hemisphere where the Earth's axis of rotation meets its surface. source

There were several attempts to reach the North pole prior to the 1940's. A review of Wikipedia's article on Exploration of the North_Pole indicate some of the difficulties in definitively identifying the location.

I imagine the best time is either near summer when the sun can be your best resource or the winter when the stars can be your best resource. But I have no idea which of either of these times would be best.

Excluding the use of GPS, and just using tools available to earlier explores what time of year is best to find the North Pole. Ignoring all the difficulties of travel at that time of year, just identifying the location with pre-GPS technology.

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    There is never a good time to find the North Pole.
    – gerrit
    Dec 17, 2015 at 19:31

2 Answers 2


Ignoring the difficulties of travel (in summer you may need a boat, in winter, skis), then the current weather will make more difference then the season. Given the correct time and standard navigation tables, you can get the latitude by measuring the angle from the horizon to the limb of the sun, the limb of the moon, or to a bright star. Winter might allow for a somewhat more accurate fix, since you could take measurements to multiple stars, and average the results. The Wiki link you provided notes that this was the technique used by Cook, Peary, and Byrd, but Cook and Peary simply weren't very good at it, and Byrd may have concealed his actual measurements, in order to claim he'd reached the pole.

  • This is a good start, it outlines two important considerations, can you expand it in to why one or the other is the best choice? Dec 18, 2015 at 11:49

You can't ignore the difficulties. Those difficulties are precisely what dictated when you could attempt the trip. For the most part, those limitations still exist.

However for the actual calculation and finding of the North Pole, that would be night time, when you could calculate how far away from the pole you actually were, and also whether you are standing right on it.

During approach, at night take a compass bearing on the North Star. Using an Equatorial Finder Scope you can calculate how much farther you have to go.

Use that compass bearing while traveling during the day, and renew your compass bearing each night since it's likely to shift a lot while proximate to the north poles. One reading per day is likely to be enough since you aren't going to travel very far in a single day. Use your Finder Scope to find the declination to the North Star to update how close you are.

Eventually the North Star will be at azimuth (have zero declination), it is then that you are standing on the North Pole.

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    Without GPS, how do you determine you're there? And if not, which way to travel?
    – Roddy
    Dec 17, 2015 at 18:26
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    I thought that was rather obvious. But I'll include it in my answer.
    – Escoce
    Dec 17, 2015 at 18:30
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    You do know that day and night can last 3 months at the north pole, right? and that the question is what is the best time of year to find the north pole? And possibly also that the pole stars are only approximately over the pole Dec 17, 2015 at 19:01
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    @Escoce If you go looking for the North Pole in the middle of Summer, you aren't going to see any starts, because the sun doesn't set from approximately the 19 of April to the 23 of August, and before and after those dates the night is barely darker than dusk, and for only a brief amount of time.
    – ShemSeger
    Dec 17, 2015 at 19:13
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    @Escoce Obvious, maybe : I was assuming that following Polaris only gets you "close", because Polaris isn't actually directly above the geographic north pole. I'm also interested in what margin of error these methods would give.
    – Roddy
    Dec 17, 2015 at 21:14

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