High-tech resources track Santa's route
December 24, 1997
Web posted at: 6:33 p.m. EST (2333 GMT)
From Military Affairs Producer Chris Plante
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Military resources normally dedicated to tracking incoming nuclear missiles, drug smugglers and other potential U.S. airspace "intruders" will instead be devoted on Christmas Eve to tracking the course of (the alleged) Santa Claus and his reindeer as they make their way to chimneys all over North America.
The North American Aerospace Defense Command, known as NORAD, will be charged with the holiday mission and will use "satellites, radars, and the pilots of NORAD's Canadian and American jet fighters" to track the rotund, bearded fellow from the North Pole to a neighborhood near you," according to a NORAD advisory.
NORAD, which is safely burrowed deep under Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado Springs, Colorado, deals ordinarily with only the most serious of business. For the last 41 years though, NORAD has made it its business to track the course of Santa's sleigh on Christmas Eve for the children of the United States and Canada.
Information on Santa's progress will be made available to interested parties will be provided until 3 a.m. (EST) on Christmas morning.
The tracking information can be accessed by parents and children on Christmas by calling NORAD at 719-474-3980, or for the first time ever Santa's movements will be available on the Internet. The modern world being what it is, videotape also will be available.
A official statement claims that, "based on historical data, NORAD
anticipates visual identification of Santa in North American airspace commencing at approximately 10 p.m. (EST)" on December 24.
"Special digital cameras installed in the cockpits of Canadian CF-18s should capture the first images of Santa as he and his reindeer head into North American from the North Pole. The images will be instantly downloaded to the 'NORAD Tracks Santa Web site'."
"Official NORAD Tracks Santa Claus Web Page"
The custom of "Santa tracking" started 43 years ago when a local Colorado store published an advertisement listing a phone number for kids to call to talk to Santa. The phone number was not for the store, but for the "Operations Hotline" at Cheyenne Mountain.
As calls began flooding in, a quick-thinking Air Force colonel working as the Director of Operations at what was then called CONAD, for Continental Air Defense Command, decided to enlist some help to field the calls. A picture of Santa Claus was added to the map intended to track incoming missiles, and a tradition was born.
More than 15,000 calls were received last Christmas by American and
Canadian military and civilian volunteers working at NORAD.