Listen closely, and you may hear the sound of tinkling bells and hoofbeats on your roof Sunday night as Kris Kringle — aka Santa Claus — makes his rounds from his home in a land of ice and snow in the Far North.
From the North Pole, Santa is able to reach the majority of Earth’s population with the shortest travel times. He also chose the North Pole because temperatures are relatively warmer there than at the South Pole.
The great white expanse of the South Pole is frightfully cold. On July 21, 1983, the air temperature reached minus 128.6 degrees at Russia’s Vostok Research Station. In July? Yes, remember, when it is summer in the Northern Hemisphere, it is winter south of the equator.
The station lies atop a windswept landscape that sits on a 9,000-foot-thick plateau of ice. The climate at the South Pole is desert bone-dry, almost never receiving any precipitation. All in all, the weather is a bit too dry and cold for Saint Nicholas and his tireless elves.
However, the North Pole — where the Earth’s axis of rotation meets the Earth’s surface — sits on an ocean, and temperatures are not quite as cold. Because of the shifting ice floes at the pole, rumor has it that Santa actually lives a little farther south on Ellesmere Island in Quttinirpaaq National Park, Canada. The park is the northernmost part of Canada, and in Inuktitut, “Quttinirpaaq” means “top of the world.” The park is dominated by rock, ice, and mountains. Along the park’s Arctic Ocean coastline, a fjord leads to a small secret valley surrounded by rugged mountains and lofty cliffs covered by dark-green moss and gray lichens.
This stealthy valley’s air temperatures are kept pleasantly mild by geothermal springs that flow year-round. In this valley, according to unconfirmed reports, sits Santa and Mrs. Claus’ secret village, where thousands of elves are hard at work making toys.
Quttinirpaaq National Park also supports a small population of hearty Peary caribou, and one subspecies that lives only in this secret valley is the Rudolph reindeer. This small subspecies is unequivocally critical in transporting Santa and his sleigh.
In the winter, the North Pole is in perpetual darkness, with the sun constantly below the horizon. During the summer, the midnight sun shines for nearly six months. In other words, during the entire year, it feels like there is only one night and one day. That has caused Father Christmas’ circadian cycle to shift from 24 hours to a yearly cycle.
Older kids often ask how Santa can possibly visit all the homes in one single night. In Santa’s paradigm, the night is actually six months long, which gives him plenty of time to jump down chimneys, fill stockings, and drink the milk and eat the cookies left for him at each child’s home.
If you don’t believe me, the North American Aerospace Defense Command tracks Santa and his reindeer every year heading out of the North Pole to all of our homes.
You can log on to the Santa Tracker website at www.noradsanta.org, which has all kinds of fun activities to check out even before the Big Night, like exploring the Earth and the North Pole, music, games, movies, a library and more. It also has a countdown clock.
I sincerely wish everyone a Merry Christmas and happy holidays.