Letters to the North Pole

December 20, 2018

Landsat 8 image of North Pole, Alaska

November 20, 2017

Unlike the South Pole, the geographic North Pole does not lie on a land mass. The Earth’s northern axis of rotation is in the Arctic Ocean, covered by shifting sea ice.

Landsat does not image the North Pole, which makes it an imperfect investigative tool for the detection of Santa’s workshop.

It does, however, collect imagery over North Pole, Alaska, a small town south of Fairbanks that receives thousands of letters to Santa each year. This Landsat 8 image shows Santa’s continental outpost in November, the latest month in the year that sunlit imagery is collected there. The shorter days of December don’t offer enough sunlight to collect usable data at northern latitudes.

Letters to Kris Kringle don’t always land in North Pole, Alaska. Many are processed 400 miles south. The Anchorage, Alaska post office also receives letters to Santa, and letters from Santa are stamped there for delivery to children in the Lower 48 states.

Some Christmas letter-writers bypass the North Pole altogether in favor of Santa Claus, Indiana, seen here in a Landsat 5 image from Christmas Day 1998. That city is home to the Santa Claus Museum and Village, Christmas Lake, and a campground named “Lake Rudolph.”

Ironically, Santa Claus also has a summertime theme park, with areas for Christmas, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Fourth of July. The park is visible in this high-resolution orthoimage from February 2013.

Sources: Landsat 8