Life in the far North is fascinating to learn about. Somehow, human beings have survived and thrived in these frozen regions, even though the climate seems forbiddingly hostile to human life.
One such fascinating story comes from the remote Alaskan village of Nuiqsut, just 30 frosty miles (50 km) south of the Arctic Ocean. In this village, Santa Claus made his visit this year via Alaska Air National Guard cargo plane!
It’s called “Operation Santa Claus.” The story comes to us from the Associated Press, which reports:
Though the weather outside was frightful, schoolchildren in the northern Alaska Inupiat community of Nuiqsut were so delighted for a visit by Santa that they braved wind chills of 25 degrees below zero just to see him land on a snow-covered airstrip.
Once again, it was time for Operation Santa Claus in Alaska. And here in Nuiqsut, a roadless village of about 460 residents on Alaska’s oil-rich North Slope, the temperatures may have been plunging but the children were warming quickly…
“Some of them were out on the deck and they were jumping up and down, excited to see the plane coming in,” said Principal Lee Karasiewicz of the Trapper School, as he kept watch over pupils from the 160-student K-12 facility privileged to get a pre-Christmas visit from the jolly, fat one.
The tradition began back in 1956 at another tiny rural Alaska town called St. Mary’s. The Alaska National Guard focuses its special delivery visits on communities that have been hit by hardship in the past year.
In 1956, St. Mary’s residents suffered flooding followed by a drought, leaving little funds for Christmas gifts. The guard brought donated gifts and supplies, and the tradition was born.
This past year, Nuiqsut residents suffered from a natural gas leak at an oil production facility about 7 miles (11 km) away. There was no mandatory evacuation in Nuiqsut, but some residents experienced symptoms like headaches or trouble breathing and about 20 families chose to self-evacuate.
The Alaska National Guard worked with the people of Nuiqsut during this time, and their hope is that the Santa event will help local children to see the guard in a positive and non-scary light.
“It’s about bringing in the National Guard in a non-stressful event so the kids could see them doing good work that’s not during a scary event,” said Rosemary Ahtuangaruak, the town’s mayor, in an interview with the AP.
After Santa and Mrs. Claus arrived by cargo plane, each child had the chance for a short visit with them. Then each child received a backpack brimming with snacks, books, hygiene supplies, and a gift.
Santa uses various forms of transportation in different parts of the world, but a cargo plane has to be a new one. What a fun and special way to spread the Christmas spirit!