ProGeocaching Quality in geocaching

10Sep/114

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! '-)

5Sep/110

How to launch a geocache into space (Part 1)

In December 2010, Scott (E6C - Echo Six Charlie), Steve (Waya) and Tanya (Woyi), geocachers from North Carolina,  launched a geocache into space. Well, technically it's called near space, but it went very high and very far.

The idea came from a father and son who launched an iPhone tied to a balloon and posted the video on the web.  E6C thought, "Well if they can do it, we can too... and do it better!"

How do you make a geocache that can go into space (well almost into space)? The first thing to work out, is how much the payload is going to weigh.

To record the event they used a Kodak Zi6 camera (like a Flip video), a Samsung Joy cell phone and a still camera.  A Spot GPS was used to track the balloon's progress.  The advantage of a Spot is that it communicates via satellite, so even if the balloon lands out of cell phone range, it can still transmit its location.  Including the cache container and parachute, the total weight of the payload was about 4 lbs (~2kg).

Parachute?  Why do you need a parachute?  Well they were concerned about a 4 lb payload coming down and hitting someone.  Since E6C works in the military he was able to acquire an old 6 ft diameter drogue 'chute that attaches to a spring in the main parachute pack.

The next challenge was to figure out how much helium to use for the weight of payload.  They calculated the buoyancy of helium needed for the weight, and then how much volume that helium would fill at 100,000 ft.  This produced a result that showed that they needed a balloon of 19ft in diameter. So they went ahead and purchased a 19ft weather balloon from Scientific Sales.

The balloon is designed to burst when it reaches that diameter, and that determines the maximum altitude that can be achieved.

The balloon with the payload was launched on 18 December at 9:33AM near Fayetteville, North Carolina.  It climbed at about 1600 feet/minute and  took almost 1 hour to achieve an altitude of 101,001 feet before the balloon burst. It took about the same time to fall back to earth.

During the climb and descent the balloon travelled 124 miles (198 km) and landed on in a small forest  behind someone's place.  The group who launched the balloon arrived at the owner's front door.  Apparently his eyes lit up when he heard the story and took them out the back of his property to locate it.

It had come down safely and was hanging from a tree about 8ft off the ground.

The cache is now permanently located there and you can go and find it.  The cache code is GC2JPJJ.  It's listed as multi.  You are supposed to go to the launch site where there is a plaque that gives the final co-ords.  Alternatively you can watch the video which shows the final co-0rdinates.  It is on private property, but permission has been graciously granted by the owner. Just stop by the house (at reasonable hours) and let Mr. Hutchins know you are going through his backyard. Balloon remains are at the GZ for posterity (with permission from the owner, too).

The official website of the project is here: http://gaia.terrasunder.org/

Here is the interview that I did with Scott (E6C) where he talks about how to launch a geocache into space ... WITHOUT a Space Shuttle!

30Aug/110

Why we geocache

Today I thought I'd talk about something different.

I was out finding a cache (GC2Z9KW) today in the bush that is near where I live. As it turns out it was an excellent cache. The container was large... yes large! It was hidden in a beautiful piece of bush near a small creek. It was really worth the several kilometre walk to find it.

Spring has sprung here in Sydney and the wildflowers are out and are sight to behold.

One of the big reasons why we go geocaching is to enjoy the outdoors. It's about adventures and experiences, and one of the great experiences is enjoying creation at its best.

Because I am out in the bush so much I thought that I should learn more about the local flora and fauna. So I bought a book and a CD about plants that grow locally. Now, I'm certainly not an expert on the subject, but it's nice to be able to walk through the bush and identify the various plants that I encounter. It's also good to watch the changing seasons and know the different times that plants bloom. It gives you a closer connection with nature.

I got my camcorder out and recorded a small sample of blooms that you'll see if you take the time stop and smell the ... err wildflowers.

Go out and enjoy your local piece of the outdoors.