Thursday, May 27, 2021

Point Nemo & the ISS

Point Nemo is the name given to the point on Earth which is furthest from any land. Point Nemo, in the middle of the South Pacific, is about 2,688 kilometers away from the nearest land. Point Nemo is actually more or less equidistant from Ducie Island (Pitcairn Islands), Motu Nui (Easter Islands), and Maher Island (Antarctica), to the south. All three islands however are a long, long way away. In fact the nearest land is so far away that it is often said that if you found yourself at Point Nemo you would be closer to the astronauts on the International Space Station than to any other humans on Earth. 

Omar Shehata recently decided to find out if it was really true that Point Nemo is nearer to the ISS than it is to the Ducie, Motu Nui and Maher islands. It is possible to use NASA data to pinpoint the location of the International Space Station at any time. Therefore using an interactive 3D map, such as Cesium, it should be fairly easy to find out how far Point Nemo is from the ISS at any point in time and if this distance is further or nearer than the 2,688 km distance from Point Nero to the nearest land.

You can play with Omar's interactive map and his write up of what he found on Visualizing the distance between point nemo and the International Space Station. Omar discovered that the ISS is indeed often nearer to Point Nemo than Point Nemo is to the closest land. However Omar suggests in his write-up that this doesn't necessarily mean that Point Nemo is closer to astronauts in space than to any other humans on Earth (read Omar's post if you can't work out why). 


Point Nemo is a Pole of Inaccessibility. A pole of inaccessibility is term used to describe a location on Earth furthest from a point of accessibility. It is often used to describe a point in an ocean which is the most distant from a coastline. However it can also be used to describe the point in a country which is the furthest distance from the sea.

Atlas Obscura has worked out a number of Poles of Inaccessibility. Their collection of points on the Earth which are hard to access include the Arctic Pole of Inaccessibility (the northernmost point that is furthest from land), the Eurasian Point of Inaccessibility (the point on the Eurasian continent that is furthest from the ocean) and the North American Pole of Inaccessibility (the spot in the USA furthest from the coast).

Places of Inaccessibility is an interactive map which shows Germany's most inaccessible locations. The map visualizes the points in Germany which are the furthest away from a road. Gro├čer Knechtsand is Germany's Pole of Inaccessibility being 13.59 km from the nearest road. Part of the reason it is so far from a road is because it is on a road free island. A point in a military training area in Bergen is the most inaccessible place that is neither in the water, on an island or in the mountains.

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