Tracking Santa on
the Holiday's Most Popular Site
Typo In 1955
Newspaper Ad Results in Annual Holiday Phenomenon - Now On The Web
By Hans Petersen
December 19, 2000
When mom and dad were kids, they would
stare in fixed suspense at the TV screen while the local newscaster
would relay the "bulletins just in" on the progress of
Santa Claus as he made his way south from the North Pole.
Eve, kids will be at their computer screens, for the fourth year,
tracking Santa in real
time thanks to the United States Air Force and the North American
Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).
Kids across the world can tune into
NORAD's 44th Annual Santa track this Christmas Eve by surfing the
web or picking up the phone. Children who do not have access to
the Internet can call Cheyenne Mountain for a personal Santa update
at (719) 474-3980 from 4 p.m. - midnight MST.
The extensive, six-language, multimedia
website will track Santa on Christmas Eve using digital animation,
satellite/cockpit images and audio reports from Cheyenne Mountain,
Colorado Springs -- NORAD's Command Center. New images and reports
are posted every hour. The site is available in English, French,
Spanish, Italian, Japanese and Brazilian Portuguese.
The website has a variety of high-tech
features and tackles numerous critically important aspects of Santa
Claus -- including calculations of cookie and milk consumption,
how he gets around the world so quickly and how he gets down the
How It Got Started
The Santa tracking tradition started
in 1955 by pure accident after a local newspaper ran an ad for a
Department Store Santa Hotline. The ad included a special
phone number which turned out to be the Operations Hotline
to Continental Air Defense Command (NORADs predecessor).
Needless to say, the military personnel
on duty were very surprised to hear six-year-olds on the Operations
hotline. The senior officer on duty at the time was Colonel Harry
Shoup (who still resides in Colorado Springs). Col. Shoup took the
first call and quickly figured out what had happened. The kids asked
if they could speak to Santa. Col. Shoup said he was helping Santa
and told them he could see him on the Radar screens heading south
from the North Pole.
Local media heard of the calls and
reported the story locally. The next year, calls came flooding in
to Continental Air Defense Command from children who wanted to know
where Santa was. A tradition was born - a tradition NORAD assumed
in 1957. The program expanded gradually over the years until it
hit the Internet in 1997. Hits - or Christmas Eve attempts to log
on - numbered many, many millions in years since tracking Santa
Website a Worldwide Hit
In 1998, the Santa Claus tracking
website proved to be a huge success over the Christmas holidays
with more than 28 million hits registered on the main site. Additionally,
America Online (15 million users) and several other large
Internet service providers carried the site on their internal servers,
separate from the NORAD main site. With this additional Internet
traffic, the website was likely the worlds most popular site
on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day that year and the next.
To date, the "NORAD Tracks Santa"
website has been awarded more than 45 international Internet awards
for website excellence. In addition to several American awards such
as the USA Today Hotsite award and ABC News.Com Site of
the Week, awards have been received from Canada, Sweden, Switzerland,
France, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Japan. The worldwide
recognition includes the Medaille dOr Award from France and
the Web Academy Award from Britain -- two of the Internets
most highly prized awards.
News organizations all over the world
feature NORADs website and Santa tracking program. In addition
to extensive media coverage in North America, news outlets throughout
Europe, Japan and in countries such as Malaysia, Colombia, New Zealand
and Poland highlight the site.
Corporate, Personal Volunteers
More than 1,200 unsolicited emails
and letters were received from around the world thanking NORAD for
its Santa tracking efforts and standing watch over North America.
Eighty-two volunteers in Cheyenne
Mountain responded to more than 7,000 phone calls from children
around the world on Christmas Eve.
The webpage was designed by Analytical
Graphics Inc., who created the site and all supporting imagery,
and is hosted by IBM. In addition, Globelink Services International
coordinated the extensive translation required for the website.
All the organizations and volunteers who help make this global NORAD
Christmas project possible do so at no cost to the taxpayer.
For More Information
Jamie Robertson at (719) 554-5816 or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Author
is a writer/editor at the Health Care Financing Administration in
Washington D.C. Currently writing for AccessAmerica
E-Gov E-Zine, he can be reached at HPetersen@HCFA.gov.