Track Santa’s light-speed journey online (Wired UK)

Santa tracking is
Santa tracking is

Find out where your gifts are, right now. Better
online tracking than Amazon.


Flying through the sky on arguably the least aerodynamic vehicle
you can imagine, with concentrated reindeer as both fuel and
navigation devices, makes Father Christmas a bit of a flight
hazard. To make sure the jolly fat man has sufficient aerial
clearance to make his annual present-based pilgrimage, NORAD operates a Santa tracking system.

The NORAD Santa site
reveals the suite of software and technology the organisation uses
to monitor Saint Nick’s journey from the North Pole each Christmas.
Expected tools such as radar, with NORAD’s 47-strong installation
dotted around the north of Canada and Alaska, and geosynchronous
heat-seeking satellites are joined
by Santacams dotted around the globe and, of course, a fleet of CF-18
fighter jets
to accompany Kris Kringle over North American

However, even with that array of gadgetry at its disposal, NORAD
can’t explain exactly how so many homes around the world are
visited in a single night. The best guess is, essentially, time
dilation. NORAD says “intelligence reports indicate that Santa does
not experience time the way we do. His trip seems to take 24 hours
to us, but to Santa it might last days, weeks or even months.”

NORAD’s tracking is actually a modern update of a half-century
long tradition. The organisation’s predecessor, CONAD, began observing Pere Noel’s movements in 1955. An advert
for a retail store had misprinted a phone number inviting children
to call Santa, instead accidentally directing callers to CONAD’s
operations hotline. Feeling the festive spirit, Colonel Harry Shoup
told his staff to give children the gift-giver’s “current
location”. By the time NORAD replaced CONAD in 1958, Santa tracking
had become an annual tradition, one that has continued through to

NORAD launched its tracking site in 1998, and it has grown year
after year. 2014’s effort now offers eight languages for truly
global impact; has included an advent calendar filled with games,
mini-movies, music; and, in keeping with the commercialised nature
of a modern secular Christmas, an online
store selling NORAD merch. It also serves an educational purpose,
with information on what NORAD does the rest of the year, when
there less exciting things in the sky and has to be concerned with
defence operations. You know, boring stuff.

At time of writing, Father Christmas had left the North Pole and
was last seen over Mudanjiang, China, having already delivered
1.08bn presents.

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24 December 2014 | 1:37 pm – Source:


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