Geocaching

Shaula is big into BookCrossing. The problem with BookCrossing, IMO, is that hardly any gadgets are required to participate. All you need is an Internet connection and a book. Geocaching is more my speed. Required gadgets: GPS, PDA (to run favorite mapping/logging software), digital camera (to record the happenings), compass, Internet-capable device, car or other transportation system. Some people manage to reduce this down to the GPS and Internet but obviously they just don’t get it. I’m trying to figure out how to incorporate MORE gadgets into the process.

After hearing about geocaching off and on for awhile we encountered a pair of ‘geocachers’ on a train in Norway, Oslo to Bergen. They were very enthusiastic about the, uh, sport and some of their enthusiasm rubbed off on us. Today we decided to give it a try.

Geocaching in a nutshell: Go to the geocaching web site and locate a nearby cache at an interesting location or with contents you want. Use some mapping software to pin the latitude/longitude coordinates on a map andwork out how to get close. Get there, then whip out the ‘ole GPS and start walking to the target coordinates. This is where it gets tricky since it is unlikely that you can walk straight through buildings, rivers, fences, thick underbrush, etc towards the target and your average GPS unit isn’t going to know much about these features or how to get around them.

After resolving this you’ll have to deal with the reality that GPS precision, both yours and the person who placed the cache, is somewhat limited. GPS limitations may not be an issue if you’re trying to hit a target with a 5,000lb bomb but if you’re trying to place your hands on a deliberately concealed tupperware container in the middle of a thick forest it can be a challenge to search a ~100 square meter area.

The reward for our efforts today is a pair of comic book action figures, Batman and Wolverine! We’re going to take them on our next trips and drop them off in caches along the way. These guys are extra cool because they carry “travel bugs“ (Batman’sWolverine’s) which means they’re tagged so we can see on the Web where they’ve been and keep track of where they go after we drop them off.

Additional gadgets with potential for our geocaching ‘kit’:

night vision goggles: for geocaching in the dark
Internet-capable phone: for immediately posting your finds online
metal detector: for those buried caches
RFID tags and reader: for easy tracking of cached items
walkie-talkies: to communicate with the rest of your geosearching team
web cam: keep an eye on your cache and who’s messing with it
robot: why get leave the house when you can remotely guide a robot to the cache?

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