Earth Sciences and Ecology Question #348

Sara, a female from the Internet asks on February 24, 1998,

What happens to a compass when it is held exactly on magnetic north? Does it just spin?

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The answer

(Barb Cloutier) Earth Sciences Information Centre answered on February 24, 1998

At the high latitudes (North or South) the magnetic field lines are entering the earth almost vertically. Hence, a compass held horizontally will be pinned down and not pointing in any particular direction. When it is able to point, i.e. when it is far enough away from the magnetic pole, it points to the "Magnetic Pole" and not to the "Geographical Pole." The Magnetic North Pole is in the Canadian Island known as Ellef Ringnes.

The South Magnetic Pole is in the Antarctic Ocean just off the coast of Dumont d'Urville.

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