Vast region of icy seas and cold lands around the North Pole, often defined as extending from the Pole to the Arctic Circle. In areas N of latitude 66° 30'N, the sun does not set during the height of summer, nor rise during the depths of winter. Many place the S limit of the Arctic proper at the northern boundary of forest growth, others make the limit the summer isotherm of 18°C (50°F). The more southerly areas are frequently referred to as the subarctic. At the centre of the Arctic is the Arctic Ocean. In the region around the North Pole, the waters of the Arctic are permanently covered with sheet ice or a floating mass of ice debris called the ice pack, but some parts of the ocean are frozen only in winter. When the ice starts to melt in spring, it breaks into floes and drifting pack ice. Icebergs have their origins in freshwater glaciers flowing into the ocean from the surrounding lands. Lands and climate Bordering the Arctic Ocean are the most northerly lands of Asia, Europe, and North America. The greater part of the huge frozen island of Greenland lies N of the Arctic Circle. Five-sixths of Greenland's surface is always hidden by a thick ice-cap. Arctic lands generally have a summer without ice and snow. Most of the Arctic tundra is flat and marshy in summer but the subsoil is permafrost. For most of the year Arctic temperatures are below freezing point. In spring the sun appears, and some Arctic lands have sunshine every day from March to September. People Despite the severity of the climate and the restricted food resources, many peoples live in the Arctic. The most scattered are the c.60,000 Eskimos spread across polar North America, Greenland, and NE Siberia. Several culturally separate groups of people live in N Siberia. In the European part of Russia there are the Zyryans, and in Lapland the Lapps. Most of these peoples follow ancient, traditional patterns of life, but the discovery of great mineral wealth, especially in Alaska and Russia, brought huge change. History The region was first explored by Norsemen as early as the 9th century. The search for the Northwest Passage gave impetus to further explorations in the 16th and 17th centuries, though a route was not found until the early 1900s. In 1909 the US explorer Robert Peary reached the North Pole, and in 1959 the first crossing of the Arctic Ocean under the polar ice-cap was completed.
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