Geocashing - the global treasure hunt
Liz Croton (M 2000)
“...caches hidden in various secret locations...”
The first I heard of the “sport” of geocaching was when a fellow Harbornite was enlightening me as to the latest applications on his shiny new smart phone. A click on the “Geocaching” app immediately brought up a list of intriguingly named “caches” hidden in various secret locations around Birmingham.
The vision of grown men in suits scrabbling around in the undergrowth for hidden treasure amused me somewhat and so I downloaded the app and tried it for myself. What follows is a description of geocaching together with a resume of the local hunting grounds in and around Harborne
“...caches hidden anywhere in the world.”
Geocaching (pronounced geo-cashing) is an outdoor sporting activity in which GPS devices, or more recently, mobile smartphones are used to find containers (caches) hidden anywhere in the world. Currently, there are estimated to be 1.7 million geocaches worldwide placed in 200 countries of the world, including Antarctica.
Types of cache
The vast majority of caches in the West Midlands appear to be waterproof containers such as lock’n’lock sandwich boxes. They are often covered with camouflage or gaffer tape to make them easier to hide. In urban areas, smaller caches may be used, the most common being the 35mm film canister.
Typical caches contain logbooks for the finder to sign, a pen (if size permits) and smaller trinkets of low value such as novelty rubbers or jewellery. Other types of caches are arranged in series with each cache containing a clue as to the location of the next cache or parts of a puzzle to solve.
Individual caches can be placed by anyone and their co-ordinates uploaded to the website. The cache owner is then responsible for maintaining the cache and checking that it is in good working order.
Locating the treasure
“...searching for nearby caches...”
The main geocaching website (www.geocaching.com) contains detailed information about geocaching and allows searching for nearby caches via a free basic membership. You are also able to view electronic logs from previous finders and pictures (warning – may give away location!).
To find the caches, you need a GPS devices into which you input the coordinates for the cache from the website.
Geocaching.com also sells apps for the major Smartphones which allow you to use your phone as a GPS, log cache finds and upload pictures direct to the website. Typically the GPS will take you to within a few metres of the cache (dependent on signal) and you then use your intuition and your hands to locate the bounty.
Harborne – a geocachers paradise?
“...32 geocaches within a 1.5 mile radius.”
A quick search of the website inputing my War Lane post-code revealed around 32 geocaches of varying levels of difficulty within a 1.5 mile radius. There were single caches, multi-caches and even a few trackable travel bugs (they have a unique code which put into website tells you where they have been).
After much searching, I managed to locate my nearest cache (500 metres from my house) which was a cunningly hidden former eye drops bottle containing a tiny log.
“...great way to liven up a walk...”
Its actually really fulfilling finding the loot and is a great way to liven up a walk or a quick trip to the shops. In addition, you get to see parts of Harborne, you never knew existed. The following photos were taken at various (secret) locations in the Village and demonstrate some of the features of the caches.