A 55-year-old tradition continues this year as the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, launches its Santa Tracker at 2 a.m. EST on Christmas Eve, with help from Google Earth. NORAD tracks Old Saint Nick with four high-tech systems — radar, satellites, Santa Cams and fighter jets — not to mention the help of volunteers and donations to offset the costs.
The program started in 1955, when a Sears Roebuck ad in Colorado Springs, Colo., misprinted their number in an ad for a Santa hotline. Instead of Santa, calls poured in to the Continental Air Defense Command and its director of operations, Col. Harry Shoup. Shoup answered the phone expecting to speak to someone at the Pentagon. Instead he heard someone asking, “Are you really Santa Claus?”
Rather than say, “Sorry, kid, wrong number,” he used his tracking equipment to give children the location of Santa Claus. You can find a charming audio clip of Shoup describing the first call at the official NORAD Santa Web site, which also has games for kids anxiously awaiting Santa’s takeoff.
The Google Blog breaks down all the ways you can track Santa online and with your phone:
See Santa on a Google Map: On your home computer or laptop, visit www.noradsanta.org and choose your preferred language. You’ll see a large Google Map on the page displaying Santa’s current location and his next stop. Click the video icons to watch “Santa Cam” videos, and click the gift icons to learn more about each city.
Watch Santa fly with the Google Earth Plug-in: From www.noradsanta.org, click on the link Track Santa in Google Earth. You’ll see Santa steering his sleigh right on the webpage. If you don’t have the Google Earth plug-in, you can get ready by downloading it ahead of time.
Follow Santa on your phone: Track Santa from your mobile phone by opening Google Maps for mobile and searching for [santa]. Or, visit m.noradsanta.org on your phone’s browser.