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Where is North? In Canada, "North" is a state of mind

Updated on February 3, 2012
RedElf profile image

Elle Fredine (RedElf), photographer, published author - strong supporter of pet neutering/spaying, fierce advocate for no-kill shelters

Any good Girl Guide or Boy Scout can tell you where "North" is, usually with or without a compass, simply by the position of the sun, or checking the sides of the trees for moss. True, a compass would be handy on an overcast day, at night, or during an eclipse. At night, however, any good sailor could point you towards north with one quick glance at the stars. That same sailor could also use a sextant in the daylight to "shoot the sun", and tell you not only where "North" is, but also where you are, in degrees and minutes of latitude and longitude. Of course, so could the average ten-year-old nowadays, using your car's G.P.S. (Global Positioning System).

Practically speaking, "North" is anywhere in the opposite direction from "South" from any given point or location . Hence, we can have a North Carolina which is actually south of both North and South Dakota. North Carolina is, however, still north enough to be north of South Carolina. Geography is so interesting, no?

From NATO to Classic Motorbikes, North is North

50th Anniversary Logo of NATO from
50th Anniversary Logo of NATO from
The Golden Compass from
The Golden Compass from
The Harley-Davidson compass from the Harley-Davidson Authorized Rentals & Tours  website
The Harley-Davidson compass from the Harley-Davidson Authorized Rentals & Tours website

...or is it?

The "Real" North Pole? from
The "Real" North Pole? from

"North" to an astrologer...

Astrologically speaking, "North" takes on yet another significance - more of a what than a where . The ancient concept of the North Node, is deemed critical to your soul's journey. The three aspects of your life are shown in the Sun sign, which describes your personality, the North Node, which tells of your soul's needs, and the South Node, which shows what qualities you bring to this life from your past lives.

According to Elisabeth Spring, freelance writer and member of ISAR, the International Association for Astrological Research, the North Node is...

a Soul Messenger, describing the evolutionary needs of your Soul. When we act out the qualities of this Node we heal and nurture ourselves. It tells us in what area of life we need to bring emphasis, and some of the ways to do it. The North Node has a sign, a house position, and aspects, and is an excellent suggestion---similar to the idea of a personal guiding North Star.

"North" to a geographer...

Geographically speaking, North is more of a concept than a constant. The North Pole is the northernmost point on Earth, lying exactly opposite the South Pole. It defines geodetic latitude 90° North, as well as the direction of True North. At the Geographic North Pole, all directions point south; and all lines of longitude converge.

North Magnetic Pole is the point at which the magnetic field points vertically downward. It was determined by the Geological Survey of Canada to lie near Ellesmere Island, at 81.3°N 110.8°W in the year 2001, and 82°42′N 114°24′W, in 2005.

The magnetic north pole is estimated to be moving toward Russia at almost 40 miles (64 km) per year due to magnetic changes in the Earth's core, so though Santa's home may still be in the same place, especially in all our hearts, the reindeer may have to adjust their radar a tad each Christmas, and eventually, renew their passports.

Philosophically speaking, though, "North" is not a place - rather, it is an attitude; a way of responding to whatever life throws at you on any given day; a natural pre-disposition to independence, if you will.

What is it that makes a northerner, a "Northerner"?

It's partly an aptitude for standing on one's own, partly a mind-set that values self-sufficiency, resiliency, and mental toughness. It's equal parts pioneering spirit and a reverence for God's creation. It's a combination of a desire to build and achieve, tempered with respect for the land and all its creatures, of which we are but one.

Northerner's have been described as part dreamer, part visionary, and part honorable, stubborn cuss. They have been celebrated in story, song, and poem:

  • "Call of the Wild", by Jack London
  • "The Cremation of Sam McGee", by Robert W. Service
  • Songs of the Sourdough: Collected poems by Robert W. Service
  • "The Shooting of Dan McGrew", by Robert W. Service
  • "Albert Johnson: The Mad Trapper of Rat River", by Dick North
  • "The People of the Deer", by Farley Mowat

Their heroic sagas and romantic foibles have delighted us on television, as well as on the silver screen:

  • Nanook of the North - a 1922 silent documentary film by Robert J. Flaherty
  • Sergeant Preston of the Royal Mounted - a series that aired in the late 1950s
  • North to Alaska - 1960s romantic comedy
  • Death Hunt - a 1981 Charles Bronson movie based on the story of Albert Johnson
  • Glory and Honor - a 1997 film starring Will Smith as Matthew Henson, famous African-American polar explorer, and right-hand man of Admiral Peary
  • Snow Dogs - 2002 family movie about dog-team racing

The video below, a great classic by Johnny Horton, features actual, historical photographs from the Klondike Gold Rush era.

Less historically accurate, but great fun nonetheless, the 1960 Hollywood version of "North to Alaska" featured John Wayne, teen-heartthrob Fabian, and Capucine. This Swedish sauna scene pits Ernie Kovacs as a traveling con-man, against "The Duke".

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Northern Lights Spring break-up on the Peel ChannelEastern arctic-style fan-rigged dog team harnessMother and cubs from
Northern Lights
Northern Lights
Spring break-up on the Peel Channel
Spring break-up on the Peel Channel
Eastern arctic-style fan-rigged dog team harness
Eastern arctic-style fan-rigged dog team harness
Mother and cubs from
Mother and cubs from

Just as the High Arctic is more than a beautiful, exotic travel destination for winter vacations, dog sledding, and polar bear tours, so the classification "Northerner" is more than a name for those who choose to live far from the dubious comforts of our major cities. The term "Northerner" transcends all artificial boundaries of nation and race, and can be applied to anyone who exhibits the traits and deep sense of community of a true Northerner.You probably even know a few who are worthy of the title...

  • actor, Graham Greene
  • singer, Bono, of U2
  • actor, Morgan Freeman
  • singer, Tina Turner
  • celebrity contractor, Mike Holmes and his crew
  • TV personality, Ty Pennington
  • comedian, Rick Mercer...

© 2010, Text by Elle Fredine, All rights reserved


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    • RedElf profile image

      RedElf 2 years ago from Canada

      Thanks so much. Was fun to write.

    • profile image

      carpenter 2 years ago

      hi this is kwl

    • RedElf profile image

      RedElf 5 years ago from Canada

      Thanks so much, vespawoolf. I am told "everything is relative" :) - and Bono is one of my favorites, too.

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 5 years ago from Peru, South America

      I'm one of those people who never knows what direction is North, so it's good to know the term is somewhat relative. : ) I'm glad you mentioned my favorite singer with Northern attitude, Bono. Another fascinating and well-written hub. Thank you!

    • RedElf profile image

      RedElf 5 years ago from Canada

      You are most welcome, Your Cousins! Coming from the south to Toronto would be a huge change - do come and see more of our beautiful country!

      Ellen, thanks for your kind words. I shall be sure to visit your hubs as well.

    • Ellen Karman profile image

      Ellen Karman 5 years ago from medina, Ohio

      Red Elf, your writing, composition and the interesting things I learn are so superb! I can't wake up tomorrow morning and read on and on through your writings! have to vote this up, EllenKarman

    • Your Cousins profile image

      Your Cousins 5 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Thanks for the interesting hub, especially the part about the shifting North Pole! My daughter is now attending college in Toronto and it's quite a transition for us to travel there from the deep south -- in both miles and mindset. I will be exploring your links as I am interested in visiting other parts of Canada

    • RedElf profile image

      RedElf 7 years ago from Canada

      Greetings, Nell! I didn't realize it was moving that fast either. As they used to say (on TV anyway) "keep watching the heavens..."

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 7 years ago from England

      Hi, Just thought I'd come across and say Hi, back to you! I never knew about the pole moving that far! I knew that one day the poles would shift but i didn't realise that it was happening so fast. I would like to see the Aurora Borealis, fantastic! cheers nell

    • RedElf profile image

      RedElf 7 years ago from Canada

      Flightkeeper, you hit the nail right on the head!

      ethel, you certainly do fit the bill! :D

      Zsuzsy, no wonder you always manage to find our way back from a "nuggets" hunt! Talk about your "true north" Thanks, Miss Bee! I'm glad to be home from the mountains! :D:D

      Winsome, there are, indeed, some strange things done...glad you enjoyed the hub!

      Hey, Mike! Glad you stopped by - I have one in the works, as a matter of fact - a "Southern" hub, that is.

      Most welcome, jill! Always a pleasure to have you stop by.

      DjBryle, so happy to see you, too. Glad you liked the hub.

      Go figure! We have a similar confusion here, green tea-cher. Edmonton is considered to be in northern Alberta, even though it is in the geographical center of the province!

    • green tea-cher profile image

      green tea-cher 7 years ago

      Interesting description of the meaning of "north". I live in Manitoba Canada. Our largest city is Winnipeg which is in southern Manitoba. My community is in central Manitoba, but we are often referred to as being in the north because we are north of Winnipeg. Yet, we are at at the same latitude as Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, which is referred to as being in central Saskatchewan. Go figure!

    • DjBryle profile image

      DjBryle 7 years ago from Somewhere in the LINES of your MIND, and HOPEFULLY at the RIPPLES of your HEART. =)

      Voted two thumbs UP! You amused me =)

    • jill of alltrades profile image

      jill of alltrades 7 years ago from Philippines

      I enjoyed this "northern" hub! Wonderful insight on where is "north"!

      Thanks for sharing RedElf!

    • Mike Lickteig profile image

      Mike Lickteig 7 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      In my hometown, North is on the other side of the river, so I guess it really is all relative. Drbj is right, this cries out for a "south" hub.


    • Winsome profile image

      Winsome 7 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

      There are strange things done neath the midnight sun by the men who moil for gold--the arctic trails have their secret tales that will make your blood run cold....I always loved that poem. Thanks Redelf for letting us tag along on the winds of a blue norther of a true word artist.


    • Zsuzsy Bee profile image

      Zsuzsy Bee 7 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      My kids always call me 'Compass' and tease me that I must have swallowed a magnet when I was a kid... no matter where we are, in the bush snowshoeing or driving in Toronto I can pinpoint north accurately and never get lost. They actually tested me a few years back when we were hiking in Algonquin park (Ontario provincial park).

      awesome hub, RedElf, loved it

      hope you're well

      kindest regards ZSuzsy

    • ethel smith profile image

      Eileen Kersey 7 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      In the UK I am classed as a northener :)

    • Flightkeeper profile image

      Flightkeeper 7 years ago from The East Coast

      I've been to the North -- Winnipeg! -- everything is so spacious, people are friendly and nature is very close. I can definitely see the attraction in so much freedom and close-knit communities.

    • RedElf profile image

      RedElf 7 years ago from Canada

      Greetings, Hh. Always a pleasure to see you.

      Thanks, Pam - we northerners like to think they are "Northern" qualities, but I believe they could apply equally to almost any group of rugged individualists. We'd all like to claim those qualities for our own ;)

      Thanks, Gals - the question certainly tickled my imagination. That seems a bit fast to me as well, but that's the info I've found so far.

      Thanks, Enelle - high praise indeed. I'd better keep my socks pulled up :D

      What a great idea, drbj! I could have some fun with that one! Thanks so much!

      Hi, Simone. This was a lot of fun to research. Glad you enjoyed the hub!

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 7 years ago from San Francisco

      Oh, how fun! I've never actually taken the time to think about how relative the concept of "north" is. An amusing read indeed.

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 7 years ago from south Florida

      Since you did such a really GREAT job on the North, Red Elf, can South be far behind? Hope it's coming up next.

    • Enelle Lamb profile image

      Enelle Lamb 7 years ago from Canada's 'California'

      Another great hub - mind you, I have come to expect nothing but the best from you, and you never fail to disappoint! Loved the videos - Johnny Horton was always my fave growing up! Now I'll be humming that song all day :D

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Haze 7 years ago from Sunny Florida

      I love your explainations of North. I was surprized to see that the magnetic north pole is moving that much. Canada is a beautiful place, one that is truly worth braving the cold for. Thanks Redelf for another awesome hub.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 7 years ago from United States

      Interesting article about Northerners. I never thought about some of those characteristics being especially northern. Good hub.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

      You have raised a very interesting point. Thank you.