An increasingly popular website set up by the U.S. Department of Defense is giving children around the world a chance to follow the globe-trotting progress of Christmas legend Santa Claus and his trusty sleigh of reindeer. The Web site, which is operated by the North American Aerospace Defense Command or NORAD, even includes video sightings of the red-cheeked holiday celebrity.
In the wee hours of Christmas morning in Asia, NORAD Santa Tracker Lieutenant Colonel Dick Fullton gave this update of the progress of Santa and his sleigh of reindeer. Santa's sleigh is led by his ever popular Rudolph - whose glowing nose lights the way in the night. "NORAD's satellites are alerting us Rudolph, Santa and the rest of the team are now over Perth, Australia. It looks like Santa will soon be making his way north into Malaysia, Thailand and Laos," he said.
Santa's Christmas Day voyage takes him around the globe and back again to the North Pole each and every year. NORAD, which usually uses its sophisticated radars to track missiles, has been following the progress of the jolly old man for more than five decades.
An incorrect advertisement in 1955 from a retail store [Sears Roebuck & Company] in Colorado Springs, Colorado was the beginning of NORAD's annual tradition of tracking Santa.
That year, the retail store placed an advertisement that included a telephone number for children to call and speak to Santa. The number was misprinted and instead of getting Santa, children called the operational "hotline" of the U.S. Continental Air Defense Command (NORAD's predecessor).
Naval Lieutenant and Santa Tracker Lieutenant Desmond James says the number the children dialed was usually used for five star generals to contact then Director of Operations Colonel Harry Shoup. "Colonel Shoup was the kind of character that rather than hang up the phone and say you've got the wrong number. He directed all of his staff to take those calls and tell all the children where Santa Claus was and that was back in 1955. NORAD set up in 1958 and we've been doing this ever since then," he said.
Now, it does that with its increasingly popular website, noradsanta.org. Last year the Web site had 13 million visitors.
Lieutenant James says nearly a half a million are following Santa Tracker on the social network Facebook some 40,000 on Twitter and that the effort continues to grow.
This Christmas holiday, 1200 volunteers are working at NORAD to help with the effort.
Updates to the site are made continuously throughout the day and noradsanta.org can also be navigated in Chinese, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Dutch and Japanese.