The Remotest Place on Earth

SA-SG-0504: Bright sun while following Sir Ernest Shakleton's route across the Crean Glacier, South Georgia Island.

I've been to some pretty remote places…or so I thought. Western Tibet. South Georgia. Borneo.

But, according to an article in this month's issue of New Scientist, these aren't really that remote. Or, at least not that remote according to the criteria used in a new study by the European Commission's Joint Research Centre in Ispra, Italy, and the World Bank.

The study identified "remoteness" based on, as Michael Robinson points out in Time to Eat the Dogs, "information on terrain and access to road, rail and river networks. It also consider[ed] how factors like altitude, steepness of terrain and hold-ups like border crossings slow travel." It didn't necessarily take into account access to cell phone networks (now available on the summit of Everest) or other technological advances that may limit aspects of remoteness."

Nonetheless, it is a pretty interesting piece. Some findings tell us how small indeed our world has become:

  • less than 10% of the world's land is more than 48 hours of ground-based travel from the nearest city
  • in the Amazon, extensive river networks and an increasing
    number of roads mean that only 20% of the land is more than two days
    from a city – around the same proportion as Canada's Quebec province

And, according to the study, what is the remotest place on earth? It's a tough spot high on the Tibetan Plateau at 34.7°N 85.7°E, sitting at about 17,500 feet, and from here it takes 3 weeks on foot to reach Lhasa. Pretty remote!

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Jake Norton is an Everest climber, guide, photographer, writer, and motivational speaker from Colorado.

  1. john
    johnDecember 19,09

    I thought south pole was the remotest place.

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