What can you do with a Global Positioning Satellite receiver (GPS) other than use it to help you find your way when you?re driving a rental car in an unfamiliar city? Now people who love treasure hunts have found a new use for these devices?they use them in a worldwide scavenger hunt called geocaching.
Someone, somewhere in the world, hides a treasure in a weatherproof container. It could be in a trash can in Peoria or tied to a tree branch in Texas. Coded clues are then posted on the internet telling the latitude and longitude of the hidden treasure (known as the cache) and any treasure hunter can fire up his GPS and began the search. In January, 2001 there were only a few hundred such treasures hidden around the world?now there are around 25,000 hidden in 122 countries.
While you get the coordinates over the internet, you have to actually leave your computer and go out to search for the treasure on foot, so some computer geeks and couch potatoes are getting more exercise than they?ve had in a long time. And it?s not always easy: since the coordinates are given in code, a lot of thought has to come first. “Before geocaching came along, I was just sitting around, spending long hours in front of the computer or TV,” says geocacher Quinn Stone. “Now I am actually outside having a good time with my family and friends.”
The fad began in May 2000, when the Clinton administration lifted restrictions that prevented civilians from accessing information from the military satellite systems that provide navigation data to GPS devices. Stone and some friends were online (of course) talking about what they could do with this new information when, Stone says, “One group member said he was going to test by placing a bucket out in public and posting the coordinates of the bucket’s location in the newsgroup. Nobody thought much about it until a few days later someone posted a message that said: ‘I found your bucket and left a toy inside it as proof.’ And thus, geocaching was born.”
The treasures are usually not valuable. Some of them have contained rubber bugs, music CDs, tins of Altoids, computer games, Lego bricks, comics, yo-yos and kazoos. It?s the search that counts.
Some treasures aren?t physical. Geocacher Nick Gerald says, “One cache contained the promise of a drink in the cache owners’ favorite bar if you e-mailed him a password from the cache log. Another contained an invite to a home cooked dinner.”
If you find the cache, you remove one item and leave something else in its place. That way, other geocachers can continue to search. There is also a notebook with messages from the people who hid the treasure in the first place and spaces for finders to write down the time and date they located the cache. Sometimes there?s a disposable camera so a finder can take a picture of himself and then replace the camera. The photos are later posted on the treasure website.
Stone is glad the fad is expanding so fast because “When this all began, the only caches around my home in upstate New York were the ones I placed, so it was kind of like finding your own Easter eggs. But about four weeks after we got the ball rolling, a guy named ‘Gimpy’ placed a cache near where I live. Out the door I ran with GPS and daughter in tow. Hunting for hidden treasure makes you feel like a kid again.”
To check out geocaching,click here and click here.
Interested in more conventional treasure hunting methods? Read ?How to Read Signs & Omens? by Sarvananda Bluestone, click here.
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