As this is written, it’s not quite 7:00 GMT and Santa's sleigh is being pulled by a team of nine trusted reindeer -- the original eight plus Rudolph -- somewhere over Port Louis, Mauritius. To this point, St. Nick has delivered about 2.38 billion gifts, but he still has a lot of work to do.
Don’t believe us? Skeptics are invited to track Santa’s progress thanks to the work of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), which has taken on that happy task every Christmas since 1955.
Other outlets have created their own pages for tracking Santa's ride through the skies -- including Google's Santa Tracker -- but the NORAD Tracks Santa site is the granddaddy of them all.
Where in the World Is Santa Claus?
The tradition started when a newspaper ad from Sears Roebuck & Co. in a Colorado Springs newspaper encouraged children to call Santa -- but the telephone number, which was incorrectly printed on the ad, went to an operations hot line for what was then called the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD). Director of Operations Col. Harry Shoup instructed his staff to provide radar updates on Santa’s whereabouts for the kids who called.
Since then, the staffs of CONAD and NORAD have volunteered their time to put together a running update of Santa’s journey every December 24th, relying on the latest defense technology including radar, satellites and jet fighters. The effort is paid for by corporate sponsors.
The latest version can be viewed via the NORAD Tracks Santa Web site (www.noradsanta.org), or with the help of media outlets throughout the world. Also, the curious can call NORAD’s hotline (1-877-446-6723) or get a status via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Route Subject to Change
Nobody knows the methodology behind the route Santa takes, but he has shown some patterns over the years, according to NORAD. He usually starts at the International Date Line in the Pacific Ocean and makes his way west. If he sticks with his standard route, Santa today will visit the South Pacific first, then New Zealand and Australia.
After that, look for him to head for Japan, then to Asia, across to Africa, Western Europe, Canada, the United States, Mexico and Central and South America. Like all holiday travelers, Santa has to plan around the weather, so route details and arrival times are subject to change.
As you can imagine, Santa’s sleigh is a marvel of technology. NORAD says the versatile, all-weather, multi-purpose, vertical short-take-off and landing vehicle can travel great distances without refueling. The vehicle measures 75 cc (candy canes) long by 40 cc wide and 55 cc tall. Its weight at takeoff is 75,000 gd (gumdrops), which, given the fact that it hauls 60,000 tons of gifts, makes the vehicle a wonder of engineering efficiency. All this is made somewhat easier by the fact that it’s used only once per year.
How does he deliver billions of gifts in just a day? Nobody knows for sure, but NORAD speculates that Santa doesn’t experience time the way the rest of us do. It has something to do with operating within a time-space continuum that’s exclusive to him, but experts are still looking into exactly how that works.
Based on satellite photos, NORAD estimates that Santa is about 5'7" and 260 lbs. He will probably put on some weight tonight thanks to all the cookies children leave for him. Given his less-than-prime physical condition, researchers can only speculate how he gets in and out of chimneys.