Track Santa on his journey to Mount Desert Island

BAR HARBOR—Santa Claus is coming to town, and you can track him along the way. 

On Christmas Eve, Santa will take to the sky, and while en route to deliver presents to Mount Desert Island, his movements will be tracked by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).  

NORAD has been tracking Santa since 1955. The relationship began with an incorrect phone number and a resourceful Air Force commander who answered a phone call meant for Santa. The child was calling a number listed in an advertisement, but a typo sent the caller to an unlisted number for the defense agency instead. The commander played along and every year since then, the organization, which is responsible for tracking everything that flies, has added Santa to the list, ensuring safe passage from the North Pole.  

In a typical year, NORAD staffers answer about 130,000 calls in the 24-hour period ahead of Christmas Day, but this year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, staffing will be reduced and many callers will instead receive an automated message containing the current whereabouts of Jolly Ol’ Saint Nick.  

How doeNORAD track Santa? 

Using a string of 47 satellites located in the skies above Canada and Alaska, along with an advanced radar system called the North Warning System, NORAD uses the same tools it uses to defend North America to track Santa as soon as his sleigh lifts off from his workshop. Santa also receives a special welcome from Canadian fighter pilots from Newfoundland as he enters North American airspace. The pilots periodically check in with Santa while also reporting back to the NORAD command post helping to pinpoint his location. 

While NORAD tracks Santa, they cannot predict when he will arrive at an individual house. Only Santa knows his route, but, when asked, NORAD informs children that Santa only arrives when they are asleep. 

According to NORAD, Santa typically begins his journey at the International date Line in the Pacific Ocean and then travels west. He historically visits the South Pacific first, then New Zealand and Australia. After that he visits Japan, Asia, the United States, Mexico and Central and South America.  

Ways to track Santa 

  • The NORAD Tracks Santa website at is already live. The interactive site includes a countdown to Christmas, stories and songs as well as more information about Santa’s journey and NORAD’s mission.  
  • The call center begins operations in the early morning hours of Dec. 24. Call 1-877-HI-NORAD (1-877-446-6723) until midnight.  
  • Email [email protected].com and a NORAD staff member will give Santa’s last known location in a return email.  
  • Track Santa on social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, You Tube and Instagram and new this year, download a mobile app to track Santa when on the go.  
Faith DeAmbrose

Faith DeAmbrose

Managing Editor at Mount Desert Islander

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