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De Magnete - On the Magnet
The Magnetic Poles are the points at which the Earth's lines of magnetic force enter and exit the Earth vertically (or straight up and down). At the North Magnetic Pole (NMP) the "dip" (angle towards the Earth) is 90°. The north point of a magnetic compass points to this pole.
This definition was first put forth by Sir William Gilbert (1544-1603), a physician to Queen Elizabeth I. He compared the polarity of a magnet to the polarity of the Earth.
Little was known about the lodestone (magnetic iron ore) or magnetized iron. Gilbert was one of the first to research this subject and he added much knowledge through his own experiments.
Europeans were making long voyages across treacherous oceans, and the magnet (as part of a compass pointing to the NMP) was one of the few things that could help keep them from getting fatally lost.
When explorers entered the Arctic, they realized that the NMP was not at the same location as the North Geographic Pole. It then became important to find its exact location, so that the difference between those two poles could be calculated by navigators.
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DICTIONARY: Just "double-click" any unlinked word on this page for the definition from Merriam-Webster's Student Electronic Dictionary at Word Central.
ARCTIC LIBRARY & GLOSSARY: Check this section for an index of the rest of the things you really need to know about the Arctic.
ARCTIC MAPS & WEATHER REPORTS: Maps of the Northwest Passage, explorers' routes, iceberg sources, Nunavut, the Arctic by treeline, temperature...
ARCTIC LINKS: Even more information! Links to sites related to the Arctic and "Iceberg: the Story of the Throps and the Squallhoots".
GUIDE TO ARCTIC SUNRISE & SUNSET: How much sunlight or darkness is there in the Arctic on each day of the year?