Dec 2012 Puzzler: The Returning Explorer


The Returning Explorer: A Word Problem with a little math involved.

A picture of Captain Scott

Captain Scott and other polar explorers, last expedition

You surely been exposed to the classic riddle at some point in your life. An explorer walks ONE MILE due SOUTH, turns and walks ONE MILE due EAST, turns again and walks ONE MILE due NORTH. He finds himself back where he started. He shoots a bear. What color is the bear? The traditional answer is of course “White”, because he’s a polar bear, right? The explorer must have started at the North Pole to walk in these directions for these distances, etc. etc…

Balderdash.

Not long ago, someone made an interesting discovery using logic and mathematics– the North Pole is not the only starting point that satisfies the given conditions of South, East, North, Bear. Can you think of any other spot on the planet from which you can walk a mile South, a mile East, a mile North and find yourself back at your original location? Since I like bears we’ll omit the shooting-a-bear element out of the problem.

Credit: Martin Gardener, Scientific American, 1970s..

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2 responses to “Dec 2012 Puzzler: The Returning Explorer

  1. Dennis Largess

    An interesting side note to Captain Scott’s attempt to reach the Pole, was that three of his team were saved, because one of them came down with scurvy. E.R,G,R. Evans became ill, and was sent back to base with two escorts, thus saving all of them.
    Evans went on to some success and notoriety during the First World War. By that time, he was a captain of HMS Broke (of Shannon versus Chesapeake/ War of 1812). During the Battle of Dover Strait his two ships took on six german ships, and Broke actually rammed one of the German vessels.
    Stuck together, Evans had boarding knives and swords distributed to the crew, as some fighting took place on Broke’s bow. What got him into trouble was that a number of his crew used steaming cups of cocoa as missiles to repel the germans, a clear violation of the Geneva Convention.

  2. If you start so can walk 1 mile south so that the walk east circles the globe one time exactly, then you can walk north back to your starting point. No bears there to shoot either.