His sleigh is loaded. The weight distribution has been checked to see if it breaches Elf and Safety. The big man has punched in the flight-plan co-ordinates to his sat-nav because, well, Rudolf’s sense of direction isn’t what it used to be. And there’ll be no need for in-flight snacks tonight – he’ll be dining on mince pies.
Yes, Santa Claus is coming to town.
And once again you can follow him as he travels the globe, delivering presents to all the children who have been good this year.
The official NORAD Santa tracker website (noradsanta.org) goes live on Christmas Eve soon after the main man leaves his Lapland base at the speed of light to reach the southern hemisphere where he starts his round in the aptly-named Kiritimati (that’s Christmas Island) and Samoa. Then he criss-crosses the globe, travelling west for almost 24 hours until he can put his feet up for another year after checking the American territories of Baker Island and Howland Island are still uninhabited.
Santa gave NORAD (the North America Air Defence Command) the licence to shadow him in 1958, although the Americans had been unofficially keeping on eye on him since 1948, when they revealed their early warning radar had detected “one unidentified sleigh, powered by eight reindeer, at 14,000ft, heading 180 degrees”.
They continued to do so in secret – Santa dresses in red, and at the time the Americans were a little suspicious about anything red – until Sears department store placed an advertisement in the Colorado Springs newspaper in November 1955, inviting children to ring Santa. Legend has it, one child misdialled the number and got through to the Continental Air Defense Command’s (CONAD) classified hotline to the Strategic Air Command where he spoke to a rather gruff colonel, who ordered no further calls to be taken.
However, a few days later when a member of staff placed a picture of Santa on the board used to track unidentified aircraft, the colonel sensed a PR opportunity and asked CONAD’s public affairs department to inform the Press they had S Claus under surveillance and the US Navy and Marines were on stand-by to guard him against those who did not believe in Christmas.
And the tradition was born. CONAD handed the task to NORAD in 1958 – with Santa’s approval obviously – and they have continued to monitor his progress, with advances in technology allowing for easier public participation via a telephone hotline, manned by volunteers, to a designated website.
However, not only can you keep tabs on Santa digitally you may, weather permitting, be able to see him… although you’ll have to be up and about fairly early on Christmas Day.
It is expected there will be two opportunities to spot him in the southerly skies between 5.19 am and 6.53 am, presumably when he’s flying over Britain again just to make sure he’s not missed anyone before he hightails it across the Atlantic.
Such sightings occurred around three years ago when a small white light, moving at speed from west to east, appeared soon after darkness descended on Christmas Eve.
Cynics said it was the International Space Station (spotthestation.nasa.gov). But we know better.
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