Contest #480 The Geographic North Pole

Given the dates involved for 480 we thought the North Pole, home of Santa Claus/Father Christmas/Saint Nicholas, Saint Nick, Kris Kringle, etc etc, might be a good choice.  It turns out that if you put “North Pole” into the Google Earth search engine it takes you to the magnetic North Pole, which is not the same thing as the geographic north pole, located at 90 degrees north, no longitude involved. Hence the somewhat subtle nature of the hint.

Unlike the South Pole, which is located on a landmass, the North Pole is in the open, if usually frozen, Arctic Ocean. The oceanic nature of the place was theorized pretty early.  Here is Geradus Mercator’s 1595 map of the area- theoretical, of course, but he had the concept correct.

Actually getting to the Pole proved extremely difficult. Prior to 1900 various explorers tried and failed. Others tried, and claimed they made it, although many of these claims have been since discounted. Chief among those is the claim of the American, Robert Peary in 1909. The first confirmed party to arrive was a Soviet party led by let by Aleksandr Kuznetsov in 1948. They flew in, and landed on the ice.

Peary and his party had been carried partway there, on two expeditions, by the SS Roosevelt:

Other parties had overflown the pole, and in 1958 the US Navy submarine Nautilus passed directly under the pole, but did not surface. That honor fell to the USS Skate, in 1959. The first confirmed party to arrive by surface was that of Ralph Plaisted, in 1968.

The Skate after breaking through:

On 17 August 1977 the Soviet nuclear-powered icebreaker Arktika completed the first surface vessel journey to the North Pole.

In the end, it remains a cold and lonely place, although there is a great deal of automated scientific investigation going on, producing images like the one below. To see other sciencey things go to where you will find links to this, and other webcams- which are doubtless non-operational at this time of year.


Those who were good and got presents included:

  • Lighthouse
  • Phil Ower
  • hhgygy
  • Eloy Cano
  • steve willis
  • Glenmorren
  • David Kozina
  • Jeather
  • Garfield
  • Gillian B
  • Ashwini Agrawal
  • Paul Voestermans
  • George, Esq
  • Chris Nason
  • Ben S
  • Steve J

And those who had to settle for coal (or, at least, just one point):

  • mehmet durmus
  • Jesus Rodriguez
  • Ann K.

And congratulations to Gyorgy Horvath, known for a long time in this game as hhgygy, as the winner of this series with a perfect score of 20!

Contest #479: The Geysers, California, USA

The Geysers is the largest geothermal field in the world. Located about 115 km north of San Francisco, there is a complex of geothermal power plants producing about 1000MW, enough to power over 150,000 homes, or about 60% of the demand for the area between the Golden Gate Bridge and the Oregon Line.

The steam is a byproduct of a magma chamber about 4km below the surface. In addition to the naturally occurring water in the field, the companies and agencies that run the plants also inject treated wastewater into the reservoir to increase the volume of superheated steam.

In the image are 2 of the 22 plants, each one similar in design to this one:
Sonoma Plant at The Geysers 4778

or this one:

The region is also the site of a huge number of small earthquakes — most in the 1 to 3 magnitude, although on Wednesday, Dec 14th, of this year, a 5.0 struck there. USGS Seismologists have stated that the quakes in this area are almost certainly a result of the steam production, leading some to question whether or not the additional water injection is wise.

Here’s a map of all the quakes in that area from the last 7 days

Those who got powered up early included:

  • Lighthouse
  • Eloy Cano
  • Phil Ower
  • Garfield
  • Gyorgy Horvath
  • Jesus M Rodriquez

And those who got lost in the steam and needed the hint included:

  • Steve Hoge
  • Jeather
  • steve willis

# 478 Ile aux Oiseaux, on the Ratier shoal, Seine estuary between Honfleur and Le Havre

There had been some, ahh, complaints about easy WOGE quizzes, so we decided to increase the difficulty scale a bit. We’ve known about this thing for a few years, but were mystified as to what it might be. Clearly man made, but too small to be a fort, and not identified on any map we could find. Fortunately we have at least one WOGE player in France, and he kindly identified the 2005 bird sanctuary for us. Our source does admit there is not a lot of English language material to be had, so you will have to make use of the Google translation option to get the full story.

Last edit before posting. Very few got it, and only a few of those actually figured out what it is. Well done!

Aerial view:

An explanation that the non-Francophones will have to translate

Another good translatable article

Pictures of the place are very hard to come by, and the ones we found are in those two linked articles. So here’s a picture of a happy puffin at another French bird sanctuary:

Found before the hint:

  • Lighthouse
  • hhgygy
  • Phil Ower
  • Garfield
  • JF

Nobody figured out it was for the birds.