Alert, Nunavut, is only 508 miles from the geographic North Pole and is the northernmost inhabited place on Earth. The North Pole is located on floating sea ice, so it’s impossible to establish a permanent settlement there. Alert is the closest we can get. The Canadian military opened the base and weather station in 1950 on the northernmost tip of Ellesmere Island. Forbidding plains of frozen rock and shards of slate and shale surround the tiny base, and constant blizzards have caused several supply planes to crash. During the winter the sea is covered in magnificent ice formations carved into eerie curves by the whistling winds. The temperature can drop to -30 degrees and from October to February the sun never rises above the horizon. And if you need help, the nearest city is over 1,300 miles away.
The border between North and South Korea is a remnant of the Cold War frozen in time. The Korean War never officially ended and the North is still a communist dictatorship with a massive army poised to invade the South. So, between the two countries is the Demilitarized Zone, a no man’s land 2.5 miles wide and 160 miles long. On either side there is barbed wire, landmines, watchtowers, and armed soldiers. There are even occasional outbursts of shooting and violence between the two armies! But for the most part, the DMZ has created a surprisingly safe space protecting a huge natural area. Because there are no people or buildings, the mountains and wetlands are home to beautiful migrating birds, rare cranes, black bears, and even endangered tigers. When the war is finally over, there are hopes that the government will turn the DMZ into a giant park. But, for now, it’s impossible to get inside.