South Pole
Magnetism

Will a compass work at the south pole?

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2007-08-08 01:41:53

If you sailed near the south pole, what direction would your

compass point? Even as far south as Antarctica-the continent

that surrounds the south pole-compasses point to magnetic north.

But at the magnetic south pole itself, a compass might spin freely.

Or the needle might be so out of balance that it wouldn't even

spin-it might get stuck up against the top of the case. The same

thing would probably happen at the magnetic north pole, because, at

the poles, a compass needle wants to point in a very specific

direction-not north or south, but straight up and down-orienting

itself along magnetic lines of force. The exact locations of the

north and south magnetic pole move continually. The pole can

move-hour-to-hour and day-to-day-by hundreds of meters. There are

also larger, gradual changes in the Earth's magnetic field -Ð so

you can't accurately correct compass headings or bearings using

hundred-year-old navigation charts. Scientists have spent decades

recording these variations-but as to why it happens. . . well, that

question still hasn't been answered in detail. Written by NEW! Find

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