Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

How North Pole Expeditions Work


Life at the North Pole
North Pole explorers are more likely to run into a polar bear than any other animal.
North Pole explorers are more likely to run into a polar bear than any other animal.
Sue Flood/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Does anything live at the North Pole? The geographic North Pole is in the middle of the Arctic Ocean, under ice that's about 10 feet (3 meters) thick [source: Goddard Space Flight Center], so anything that lives there is typically more aquatic. No known amphibians or reptiles live in the Arctic tundra and polar region, but approximately 20 species of mammals and 100 bird species live there. Among the few land animals that migrate to the region are caribou (reindeer) and the arctic fox.

Polar bears also hang out around the North Pole, but they spend much of their time in the water, hunting the fish that live under the ice. Arctic trekkers are most likely to encounter polar bears on their journeys because the bears are naturally curious -- and attracted by human food. Polar bears are increasingly seeking out humans, especially the Inuits who live in the area, because the melting polar ice is shortening the bears' hunting season. So, the bears have to forage for food in new areas that are often occupied by humans. As the North Pole gets warmer, polar bears and other animals are facing extinction.

Beluga and killer whales, sea otters, ringed seals and walrus also call the Arctic home. Arctic birds usually spend their winters farther south in the tundra region, but the puffin, albatross, bald eagle, peregrine falcon, ptarmigan, jaeger and snowy owl can all be found in the Arctic.

There are 400 known fish species swimming in the Arctic Sea, with the most common fish near the North Pole being the arctic cod.