World Atlas website says:
The Arctic Circle, incidentally, is an imaginary line located at 66º, 30’N latitude, and as a guide defines the southernmost part of the Arctic. The climate within the Circle is very cold and much of the area is always covered with ice.
In the mid winter months, the sun never rises and temperatures can easily reach lows of – 50º F in the higher latitudes. In the summer months (further south), 24 hours of sunlight a day melts the seas and topsoil, and is the main cause of icebergs breaking off from the frozen north and floating south, causing havoc in the shipping lanes of the north Atlantic.
The primary residents of the Arctic include the Eskimos (Inuits), Saami and Russians, with an overall population (of all peoples) exceeding 2 million. The indigenous Eskimos have lived in the area for over 9,000 years, and many have now given up much of their traditional hunting and fishing to work in the oil fields and the varied support villages.
The first explorers of the Arctic were Vikings. Norwegians visited the northern regions in the 9th century, and Erik the Red (Icelander) established a settlement in Greenland in 982. In 1909, after numerous attempts by regional explorers, Robert E. Peary reached the North Pole.
I am headed to the Arctic Circle to see the Aurora borealis, commonly known as the Northern Lights. Experience says going to the Arctic Circle gives me the best opportunities to see the Aurora in the month of April. I have never been anywhere near the Arctic Circle, even on my trip through Siberia back in 2014. Perhaps I have flown over parts of it when taking the “polar route” to or from either Europe or Asia.
From “The Arctic” website:
|There are various ways of defining the Arctic. The boundary between the temperate zone and the cold zone is unclear and the term sub-Arctic is used for a wide band which shares the Arctic pattern of long, cold winters and short, often quite warm summers. The two regions together are often called the circumpolar North. The Arctic is sometimes defined as the region where permafrost* is found, which is the name for ground which remains permanently frozen and does not thaw out even in summer. It can also be defined as the region which lies north of the point beyond which the forest will not grow, or treeline.|
|By either of these definitions, the boundary of the Arctic would extend further south than what is called the Arctic Circle. This is an imaginary line which is drawn on the map at latitude 66° 33′ north. Here, for one night at midsummer the sun sinks down to the horizon but does not actually set below it. This is the famous midnight sun. As you go further north towards the north pole, the summer nights get lighter and lighter so that in the far north the sun does not set for weeks or even months and it never gets dark at all. During this period the weather is often warm. People feel vigorous and active and children can play games outside all night long.|
* I did encounter some permafrost while traveling in Siberia. Permafrost is defined as ground that is permanently frozen. The surface can thaw slightly, creating a boggy, slushy, and muddy miasma. And along with it, huge mosquitoes!
It is common to confuse the Arctic with Antarctica. The Arctic is surrounded by ocean and land masses, Antarctica is not (only stormy oceans and penguins). The Arctic has plants, animals, and some humans. And most importantly, the Arctic has a summer, albeit short and bright. At the North Pole, the sun does not set for 180 days!
Another good description for the Arctic: It marks the region, above which, for at least one day a year, the sun does not set in the summer, and has 24 hours of darkness in the winter.
The Arctic Ocean covers 5.4 million square miles, more than the area of Europe. The line of the Arctic Circle is 1650 miles south of the North Pole. Eight countries extend into the Artic along with the U.S. They are” Greenland, Russia, Canada, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland. The Arctic Circle represents only 4% of the earth’s surface, or roughly 7,700,000 square miles.
Animals found in the Arctic include: whales, seals, walruses, fish, polar bears, Arctic foxes, wolves, reindeer, and various bird life, along with puffins (no penguins). And there is vegetation for these animals to eat. Barrow is the most populated and northernmost city in Alaska, with a population of 4500. Russia has much larger cities north of the circle.
That’s probably more than you ever wanted to know about the Arctic Circle. Me too! But I figured it is a once in a lifetime visit. I have a dear friend who was a bush pilot up here back when the pipeline was being built. He said he flew within about 40 miles of the North Pole!!!