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Point Nemo Is One Of The Most Fascinating Spots On Earth, But It’s Completely Inaccessible

Nov 16, 2021

Image: Captain Nemo illustration from Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea- Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
Officially known as the Oceanic Pole of Inaccessibility, a particularly mysterious area of water in the South Pacific is known to oceanographers and astronauts alike as "Point Nemo according to While many assume Point Nemo is an island, its coordinates will actually take you as far as you can possibly travel from dry land while still remaining on Earth.
The exact coordinates of Point Nemo were only discovered in the early '90s, though its general location has been known since the 1970s, and fictionalized versions of the area have appeared in literature as early as the late 19th century. Point Nemo is rumored - and in some cases proven - to be home to everything from space trash to possible sea monsters, and it's an area where fact is every bit as strange as fiction. Here, we'll break down what and where Point Nemo is, as well as the myths surrounding this creepy ocean spot.
The Isolated Spot Is Located Over 1,000 Miles From Any Dry Land
While many things about Point Nemo remain a mystery, we at least know where to find it: the middle of nowhere. The area's closest land masses are Ducie Island, Motu Nui, and Maher Island, which are already considered remote destinations.
Ducie and Motu Nui are parts of the Pitcairn and Easter Island chains, respectively, while Maher Island sits off the coast of Antarctica. Each of these land masses is at least 1,000 miles from Point Nemo, making it more or less inaccessible to human life.
Oddly enough, its distance from human civilization is what makes Point Nemo such a valuable part of our planet.
Point Nemo Is So Remote, Sometimes The Closest Human Beings Are Astronauts In Orbit
Some basic math will reveal that there are sometimes astronauts closer to Point Nemo than any human on Earth. This is because the International Space Station orbits Earth at a distance of roughly 258 miles, while the inhabited landmass nearest Point Nemo is approximately 1,670 miles away.
Space agencies are familiar with the area and have even named it the South Pacific Ocean Uninhabited Area. It has served as an unconventional form of storage for space agencies across the globe over the past 40 years, though no one from any space agency has ever actually been there.
The Spot Is Known As A ‘Space Cemetery’ For Outdated Spacecraft
Since the early 1970s, a number of space programs have used the area now known as Point Nemo to dispose of outdated spacecraft and equipment. These programs use a complicated and precise system to bring old satellites and ships out of orbit so they don't pose a danger to populated areas when they plummet towards Earth.
Point Nemo was selected as the safest place to land old spacecraft, since it's the farthest possible point from any human being. Spacecraft are pulled from orbit and begin a rapid descent once they reenter Earth's atmosphere. The equipment typically heats up to thousands of degrees before breaking apart.
Hundreds of satellites, ships, and even the former Russian space station have met their ends at Point Nemo, and they now sit at the bottom of the ocean.
The Location Was Pinpointed In 1992 Using Specialized Computer Software
The area now known as Point Nemo has been used by international space forces since the 1970s, but not until 1992 was modern technology able to trace its exact coordinates. Survey engineer Hrvoje Lukatela is responsible for pinpointing Point Nemo as the literal center of the ocean.
Describing Point Nemo, Lukatela once said, "The location of three equilateral points is quite unique, and there are no other points on the Earth's surface that could conceivably replace any one of those."
Although coastal erosion and climate change could alter the location of Point Nemo in the distant future, the shift would only be a matter of meters.
In 1997, Researchers Heard A Mysterious ‘Bloop’ Sound Near The Spot
While modern technology and science have provided a solid picture of what Point Nemo might be like, no one really knows what's going on there, which allows certain imaginations to run wild. In 1997, five years after Point Nemo's official discovery, oceanographers recorded a strange sound in the area unlike anything they had ever heard.
The sound was affectionately nicknamed "the Bloop" and was louder than the call of the Blue Whale. The oceanographers were intrigued - and a little unnerved - by what exactly could have made this unprecedented noise, and a thorough investigation ensued.
Authorities Later Confirmed That The Bloop Was Merely An ‘Icequake’
While the idea of a modern-day sea monster - or some less-terrifying type of unknown aquatic life - is an exciting concept, the Bloop ended up being quite anticlimactic. After further research, oceanographers determined that the sound captured in 1997 was likely that of ice breaking and shifting near the southern area of Point Nemo.
The experts were even able to match up the ultra-low frequency of the Bloop to "icequakes" in other parts of the world, like Antarctica. The other known facts regarding Point Nemo's ecology also lean away from the idea of undiscovered, potentially scary marine life.
The Setting Of H.P. Lovecraft’s ‘The Call of Cthulhu’ Is Uncannily Similar To Point Nemo
The famed science fiction writer H.P. Lovecraft wrote about a fictional location that shares eerie similarities with Point Nemo. In his 1926 short story "The Call of Cthulhu," Lovecraft describes a lost city called R'lyeh where a tentacle-faced monster known as Cthulhu is trapped in an eternal slumber. According to the legend, his awakening would bring about the apocalypse.
Lovecraft set the coordinates of R'lyeh at 47°9'S 126°43'W, which he presumed to be the middle of the ocean. Shockingly, Point Nemo is located at 48°52.6'S 123°23'W, though those coordinates were only made official 66 years after Lovecraft wrote his short story.
In "The Call of Cthulhu," the narrator describes the lost city of R'lyeh as a "Nightmare corpse-city," which may not be far off from the real Point Nemo.
Despite Its Separation From Civilization, The Spot Is Full Of Microplastics
While no one knows for sure, the ocean area of Point Nemo is said to be "cornflower blue" with "violet tones," making it sound like a tropical paradise. Unfortunately, the stagnant air and water surrounding the area mean that millions of pieces of plastic get trapped, along with all of the space debris that's dumped there.
The area is so well known for being contaminated with plastics that in 2010, the band Gorillaz released an album called Plastic Beach, which they jokingly said was recorded on top of a great plastic heap at Point Nemo.
This abundance of plastics may shift the relatively stable ecology of Point Nemo in the coming decades.
The Point Was Named 'Nemo,' Meaning 'No One,' After Jules Verne's 'Twenty Thousand Leagues' Character
In 1870, 100 years before Point Nemo became a "space cemetery," Jules Verne published his novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. The book covers the adventures of Captain Nemo, a man who's lost everything and travels the ocean in a steampunk-style submarine called the Nautilus.
Captain Nemo's deep-sea expeditions take him to places both real and fictional, including Antarctica and the lost city of Atlantis. He even reaches what Verne describes as the outermost point of the ocean, so it's fitting that once that spot was officially discovered in 1992, it was named after the iconic captain. The association with Verne's novel has only added to the myth of Point Nemo.
Almost No Life Forms Can Exist At Point Nemo
Point Nemo has been described by authorities as "the least biologically active region of the world ocean." The spot resides within the bounds of the South Pacific Gyre, meaning that little fresh water or air moves through the area due to low currents and wind. Most of what's known to live in the area is bacteria that builds up from the stagnant air and water.
Point Nemo is also home to the "yeti crab," a small crustacean that appears to be covered in spiky hairs - it's just as weird as what you'd expect to find at Point Nemo. The yeti crab was only discovered in 2005, meaning there could still be more unexplored inhabitants of Point Nemo.
Point Nemo Is The Future Home Of The International Space Station
While most of us don't spend much time thinking about what's orbiting the Earth, engineers are already planning what to do with the massive International Space Station, which will likely be taken out of service in 2028.
Like most spacecraft, the International Space Station will meet its demise by plummeting into the waters of Point Nemo. The space station will be the largest of the roughly 263 spacecraft sitting at the bottom of the spot.
The largest resident is currently the 142-ton MIR space station, which was decommissioned by Russia in 2001. By comparison, the International Space Station weighs 500 tons and is roughly the size of a football field.
A Space Archaeologist Studied The Ecological Effects Of Point Nemo's Debris
Yes it's true: Space archaeologist is a real profession, and Point Nemo is one of the more fascinating spots for these experts to study. Alice Gorman is a space archaeologist with a vast understanding of Point Nemo. When discussing how all the space debris affects Point Nemo's ecosystem, she explained, "Like shipwrecks, they create habitats that will be colonised by anything and everything that lives at that depth."
Gorman has also noted that unless fuel leaks out of any of the spacecraft, they don't really pose a threat to the area's aquatic life.

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