Geocaching is a hobby where people seek small treasures that other geocachers have hidden. This is done with the help of GPS satellite receiver. One has to go online, check the geocaching Internet page, choose a cache to seek and get the coordinates of that cache. These coordinates are then entered into the GPS device, which leads the way. It tells the seeker in which direction and how far to go, even if the cache is on the other side of the world. Easy, isn’t it?
These caches can be found almost all around the world: there are almost 320,000 caches in 222 countries. Iceland has had its share too. Somewhere under the rocks, in the holes in the ground and in other perfect hiding places there are 62 caches waiting to be found. And where exactly? Well, everyone who is interested has to go out and look themselves.
Logbooks, Trading and Challenges
Although geocaching is about finding the caches, the caches themselves are not that important. For some geocachers the main thing is the thrill of the hunt and for some the place where the cache is. The caches are often hidden in such places that by finding them the geocacher also sees something remarkable: a natural monument, nice scenery, a culturally important place or a building, to mention a few. Many of the caches are in the nature, but they can be found in urban areas as well. Big city centres like New York or London have a dense geocache population. It’s nothing unusual to see someone staring at the screen of a handheld GPS around Tower Bridge or Brooklyn Bridge – there might be serious geocache hunting going on. And even in the Reykjavík city area there are 20 caches.
The caches are usually small waterproof containers with small items and a logbook inside. The idea is to mark the visit into the logbook and trade items: if you take something, you must put something in as a replacement. These small items are usually pens, batteries, little toys and so on. But not all the caches are these traditional ones: the geocacher might have to solve mysteries or seek many other caches before getting to the final one. The mysteries are usually something to do with words and counting with many variations. In order to get the final coordinates of the cache the seeker might have to count stairs, the handprints in one specific sculpture or answer a question about history. A many-sided hobby indeed.
What do people get out of geocaching? Why do they do it? Most geocachers I know say that the moment of finding the cache is the best one can have. The challenges – both mental and physical – of geocache hunting are important for many. The only thing needed to start geocaching is the ability to use Internet and a GPS receiver, anyone willing to, can do it.
Icelandic Hiding Places
Iceland is a unique country in geocaching as well. It povides the opportunity to hide caches in easy locations or in the most difficult places in Northern Europe. The country has beautiful nature and many interesting and unique sights to visit. City caches can be found around the globe but Vatnajökull glacier, Askja caldera, Dimmuborgir or active volcanic areas are Iceland’s own specialities. Some of them already have caches waiting to be found. A thing to keep in mind while hiding a cache is that the land owner has to approve. Also, the cache should not be placed in a way that the people looking for it damage the nature around it. With all this in mind, happy geocaching in Iceland.
The weather-beaten pile of rocks in front of me seems like a perfect place for a geocache. My GPS seems to agree because it is pointing in the same direction. The moment of truth! I walk around the pile with only the wind and the great big wilderness around me. A rock in the bottom of the pile seems to be loose. I move it gently and what do you know – there it is: my first Icelandic geocache.
The Satellites Above Us
GPS stands for Global Positioning System. It is a satellite navigation system created by the USA originally for military use. It consists of 24 satellites whose orbits are 20,200 kilometres above the Earth. With the signal of these satellites, a GPS receiver can determine location, speed and direction anywhere in the world. The signal is one-way; a GPS user cannot be traced unless the user wants to be. The accuracy of a normal handheld GPS receiver is usually 5 to 10 metres. The GPS system is free for everyone to use.
Handheld GPS receivers usually cost around 30,000 – 60,000 ISK. Some of them can have a map shown on the display and there is an accurate topographical map of Iceland available for GPS receivers. °
The use of GPS is expanding all the time. First it was used in military operations and navigation at sea. Nowadays GPS can be found in cars, mobile phones and palm computers. The EU is building a satellite navigation system of its own called Galileo. It should be in use by 2010 and it’s said to be more accurate than GPS.
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