What is a Pole of Inaccessibility?

Caitlin Dempsey


A pole of inaccessibility is a geographical point that represents the most remote place to reach in a given area, often based on distance from the nearest coastline. A geographic concept, the location of a pole of inaccessibility is not necessary an actual physical feature.

Who was the first person to introduce the concept of a pole of inaccessibility?

Vilhjalmur Stefansson, a Canadian explorer, was the first to introduce the concept of a pole of inaccessibility in 1920 to differentiate between the location of the North Pole and the most remote and difficult location place on land to reach in the Arctic.  

Most remote place on Earth

The location on Earth that is located the farthest from its nearest coastline can be found in Eurasia, equidistant from the Arctic Ocean, the Yellow Sea, and the Arabian Sea.  Known as the Continental Pole of Inaccessibility, the spot is located in the north-western Chinese province of Xinjiang.  

Eurasian Pole of Inaccessibility (EPIA)

Depending on the exact definition of the coastline, there have been three different locations identified of the Eurasian Pole of Inaccessibility (EPIA).  The earliest calculation did not include the Gulf of Ob as part of the ocean.  

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Garcia-Castellanos & Lombardo (2007) published a paper calculating the location of the EPIA that included the Gulf of Ob as part of the coastline and found two possible locations:

Within the uncertainty inherent to the definition of the coastline, two locations are proposed as Pole of Inaccessibility: EPIA1 (44°18’1″N; 81°51’31″E) and EPIA2 (45° 17′ 60″N; 88° 8′ 24″E). EPIA1 is equidistant 2510 ± 10 km from Gulf of Ob, Gulf of Bengal, and the Arabian Sea, and EPIA2 is equidistant 2514 ± 7 km from Gulf of Ob, Gulf of Bengal, and Gulf of Bohai (China). EPIA1 and EPIA2 are 435 and 156 km far respectively from the location popularly accepted as the EPIA. 

World map of distance to the coastline with contours every 250 km. Small circles indicate poles of inaccessibility. Source: Garcia-Castellanos & Lombardo, 2007
World map of distance to the coastline with contours every 250 km. Small circles indicate poles of inaccessibility. Source: Garcia-Castellanos & Lombardo, 2007

Most remote place in the ocean

The reverse pole of inaccessibility involves calculating the place in the ocean located the farthest from land.  Known as the Oceanic Pole of Inaccessibility, it lies in the South Pacific Ocean close to Ducie Island, Motu Nui, and Mater Island.

This location is also known as “Point Nemo” and on Google Earth and Google Maps it can be located with a circle with the words “NEMO” printed next to it.

Screenshot from Google Maps showing what shows when zoomed in to Point Nemo.
What uses see when zooming in on the spot where NEMO, the Oceanic Pole of Inaccessibility exists. Click on the image to see the location in Google Maps. Screenshot acquired July 1, 2014.

The northern pole of inaccessibility

Also know as the Arctic Pole of Inaccessibility or Arctic Pole, the north pole of inaccessibility is located off the Arctic Ocean. This location, found on an ice pack of ice, is equidistant from the three nearest landmasses: Ellesmere Island, Franz-Josef Land, and the New Siberian Islands.

The Arctic Pole of inaccesibility is about 641 kilometers from the North Pole. Sir Hubert Wilkins in 1927 was the first to view this landmass by aircraft. Due to the constant movement of the ice, no lasting structure is able to exist at this location.

The southern pole of inaccessibility

The southern pole of inaccessibility can be found on Antarctica as the spot of land that is the furthest from the Southern Ocean. There are a variety of coordinates have been established for this pole but the inconsistencies are because there is a question as to whether or not the coast is defined by the ground line or the edge of the ice shelving.

This southern pole is much more remote and more difficult to get to than the geographic South Pole. The first team to ever travel there was Russian.

Yevgeny Tolsikov led it and his team arrived there on December 14, 1958 and set up a Temporary Pole of Inaccessibility Station. A second Russian team then returned there in 1967 and the building remains at the location.

It is protected now as a historical site and there is a golden visitors book there for people to sign as the make it to this remote place.

North American pole of inaccessibility

In North America, the Pole of Inaccessibility is located near the town of Allen, in the U.S. state of South Dakota. More specifically, it is situated approximately at coordinates 43.36° N, 101.97° W about 7 miles north of Allen on  Pine Ridge Reservation. This is the point on the continent of North America that is equidistant from the surrounding coastlines, making it the most “interior” point on the continent.

Map of poles of inaccessibility

Garcia-Castellanos & Lombardo (2007) published a list of poles of inaccessibility for the largest landmasses on earth which can be found in the paper linked below.


Garcia-Castellanos, D.; U. Lombardo (2007). “Poles of Inaccessibility: A Calculation Algorithm for the Remotest Places on Earth”. Scottish Geographical Journal 123 (3): 227–233.

Stefansson, V., 1920. The Region of Maximum Inaccessibility in the Arctic. Geographical Review, 10, 167-172.

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About the author
Caitlin Dempsey
Caitlin Dempsey is the editor of Geography Realm and holds a master's degree in Geography from UCLA as well as a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) from SJSU.