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The Pilot

If you've heard this puzzle before, it was probably in the form of something like: "A hunter walks 10 miles south, 10 miles east, 10 miles north, and finds himself exactly where he started. He immediately sees, and shoots, a bear. What color was the bear's fur?"

The answer is supposed to be "white", because the only place on Earth this could happen is the North Pole. There's a lot wrong with the puzzle in the way it's phrased above. The most critical problem is that you wouldn't find a polar bear within ten, a hundred, or even a thousand miles of the North Pole. While they live in Northern climates, they don't live on the polar ice cap. A second problem is that polar bears' fur isn't really white, it's translucent (but it does look white unless examined closely).

The final problem is that the fact that the North pole isn't the only place it could have occurred. In our problem, we mentioned that the pilot ended over the land of a continent. A number of people correctly noted that the North Pole isn't on land or a continent, it is just a large ice cap.

The only places the pilot could have made the journey described and ended over the land of a continent are Chile and Argentina, at the southern-most tip of South America. The pilot flew south 2700 miles to about 430 miles north of the South Pole, flew east 2700 miles circling the pole once, then north 2700 miles to return to his starting position.

Updated 3/30/1999:

Why couldn't the continent he started over have been Antarctica? Because no point over the Antarctic continent is 2700 miles from the pole- there wouldn't have been 2700 miles of south for the pilot to fly over.

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