ProGeocaching Quality in geocaching


Geocaches that can Kill

I've been hammering on about poor quality geocaches for a while now. One of my least favourites is the Lamp

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Electrical hazards of geocaching

Electrical hazards of geocaching

Pole Cache (LPC).  Once you've done one, you've done them all.  They are usually located in the middle of a parking lot at the local mall.  Nothing to see here - move along please...

The other types that you come across fairly frequently - especially in the US - are green power boxes (padmount transformers), electrical transmission tower legs and sometimes even FAKE electrical boxes/equipment.

I have found quite a few such caches but never really seriously considered the risks involved.  After all, whoever heard of anyone getting zapped touching those things?

I recently came across a blog that woke me up to the risks involved.  The blog is by Johnnygeo who is a Health & Safety Professional working a large Canadian power utility company.  He warns of the dangers of placing and finding geocaches that are located on or near electrical equipment.

Geocaches placed under the skirts of  LPCs expose finders to the risk of being electrocuted from wiring that has shorted.  What is particularly dangerous is when the cache is hidden inside the pole, where people are sticking their fingers near wiring.  Even if the cache is not hidden inside the pole, people will still investigate there if the cache doesn't turn up immediately.

What's the danger with fake electrical boxes?
Johnnygeo says, "Children tend to stick their hands in anywhere and if a child can open a cover to something they’ll do it cause they’re curious. They learn what's safe and what's not safe by watching adults. If we teach kids that it’s okay to open up fake electrical boxes because caches are hidden in them, then I feel that we are placing children in danger."

What about green power boxes that you find in neighborhoods, parks and schools?

He says, "Generally those boxes are safe. Are they meant for playing on? The answer is no. A question is asked of me all the time, "Could this electrical equipment ever be unsafe?" The answer is a definite yes."

Cars hit this type of equipment all the time and the damage is not reported right-away. If damaged the equipment can be sitting there with their metal case energized. As soon as a person touches a piece of equipment they would be electrocuted.  Also, a city can have the best electrical maintenance program in the world and still have the odd piece of equipment fail. This could be a green electrical box in front of your house or a lamp post in a park.

What about geocaching on a piece of electrical equipment (i.e. a transmission tower leg).  The probability of a piece of

Geocaching - risk of electrical burn

Geocaching - risk of electrical burn

electrical equipment failing is low. However if it did fail, then if a person touches it, they become the path to ground - which is usually fatal.  Even if it doesn't kill, it could still give you severe burns - as the nasty picture on the right shows.

So don't  place geocaches on electrical equipment.

The other issue he deals with is that LPCs and electrical equipment are usually on private property, and you need the owner's permission to place geocaches there.

So in summary, if you are thinking of  placing a geoache under the skirt of a lamp pole, or on a piece of electrical equipment - think again.  Not only are these types of geocaches poor quality, and worthless pieces of trash they can also kill or maim.

Groundspeak needs to consider banning  the hiding of any geocache on electrical equipment.

It would eliminate a lot of trash caches and reduce the risk for all of us.

Now if only we could find a way to ban all micros and nanos on the grounds of safety! '-)


How to solve puzzle, or mystery geocaches

DJHobby is well known around Bloomington, Indiana for his innovative puzzle geocaches. In this interview he gives some tips on how to solve puzzle, or mystery geocaches.

Some of the tips he suggests include:

  • Understand that Groundspeak rules say that a cache should be no more than 2 miles away from the initial co-ordinates, which narrows down where you need to look;
  • Look for patterns in the numbers;e.g. N for north.
  • Puzzle designers use a variety of encryption methods including braille, morse code, the letters on a telephone dial; keyboard - numbers above the letters, etc.
  • Google Earth.  Use the ruler tool to look at the area within 2 miles of the posted co-ordinates;
  • Try to using Fizzycalc;
  • Use code-breaking websites e.g. look up code-breaking on Wikipedia;
  • Look at the source code on webpages.  (e.g. right click somewhere on the web page and select "View Page Source). Clues are often hidden there.
  • Google is your friend.  Search on terms used in the description.

Apologies for the poor quality sound.  It was a rainy day and we did the interview in a noisy restaurant. I have put captions in there so that you don't miss anything.


How to do over 1,000 geocaches in a day

Extraterrestrial Highway - Alien

Extraterrestrial Highway

To some people, the only way they know how to geocache is to get their geocache count up - not that there's anything wrong with that!

If you've been geocaching for a while you know that it takes a lot of effort to get your count up to thousands or even hundreds of geocaches. It can take years to get there.

So how would you like to get over 1000 caches in one day?

Let me preface this discussion by saying that Progeocaching is not about the numbers. It's about showing how to build creative geocaches, have great experiences and adventures. So why I am going to talk about getting your numbers up?

I was visiting Las Vegas recently - on business (no really!) - and spoke to Clay4. He and his caching buddy whtwolfden put out a 1000+ cache power trail that stretches for about 100 miles.

Now some people aren't into power trails but this one is really worthy of consideration. It is the largest one in the world and brings a lot of economic benefit to the region which I'll discuss later.

The geocaches are placed along Nevada State Highway 375 which runs for 98 miles from US-93 in the southeast to US-6 in the northwest. It crosses three large high desert valleys in south central Nevada: Tikaboo Valley, Sand Spring Valley and Railroad Valley. The town of Rachel is the only town along the way.

In April 1996 Nevada State Highway 375 was officially named the Extraterrestrial Highway for the many UFO sightings along this lonely stretch of road.  If you're a sci-fi buff you'll know that the highway is close to Area 51, a super-secret Air Force test facility, that has been the focus of a number of Hollywood movies including "Independence Day"  In the 1980's and 1990's there were many sightings of unidentified objects near the base. Even today visitors often see strange lights in the night-sky while driving down the highway.

It is estimated that only 200 people per day travel this road.  Geocachers must make up a fair proportion of these as hundreds visit  the area to do the series of caches. The trick to doing it quickly and efficiently  is to take your own cache container and/or log paper, already signed, for the first one.  You replace the cache with your own and take the container to the next one, and so on down the road. Some people have done the whole series in one day by starting early and finishing late.

You'd think that such a large cache series would require a huge amount of maintenance.  However Clay4 told me that the series is self sustaining because people are constantly replacing containers and log books.

What about the huge number of email from the hundreds of thousands of logs that are created?  Imagine that lot coming into your inbox!  Clay4 said that they set up a special email address for the series.  They filter out all the log emails and only receive emails when people are trying to contact them about some other matter.

Extraterrestrial Highway

It's a lonely piece of road

This is a lonely piece of highway.  In many places you can almost see from horizon to horizon. Since there is very little traffic on the road people were stopping on the road, jumping out quickly to nab the cache and take off again.

The Department of Transport (DoT) heard about this and were concerned that in some areas people were stopping on curves or at the top of hills, thus creating a traffic hazard.  They contacted Groundspeak and requested that the caches located in those spots be archived.  However Groundspeak misunderstood and asked that ALL the caches be archived.  Can you imagine the effort to put out over 1000 caches, only to have to archive them all.

One geocacher was actually in the air flying out to do the series just as they were archived. He suggested that he take them out and log them on the way.  He returned with a huge bag of cache containers.

The next thing that happened is amazing.  Over winter business for the cafes and accommodation along the road slows down.  A significant amount of their revenues was derived from geocachers.

That's right, a geocaching-led economy!

Anyway they said that they would have to lay off staff because the caches were archived. The guys contacted Groundspeak and the DoT, and worked out a plan to approve them going out again, but not place them near curves and summits.

So the guys have been going out on weekends to place the series again. It's taken 8 to 9 months but is bigger and better than before.  The plan is to eventually have over 1500 in the series.

They have organized a CITO for 26 August 2011 - (GC2Y6DX) called Alien Search and CITO. It looks like quite a few people are turning up to do the series and clean up some trash.

So there you have it.  If Progeocaching is about experiences and adventures then the ET Highway series could be just the ticket.  Take a carload of friends and have a go.  Its how to geocache your way into big numbers quickly! Not only will you have fun, but you'll be helping the economy. Can't get much better than that.

For more details about the series visit the website that they have setup here.

The special joint account that they have set up for the series is here.