More Ramblings from a Los Angeles Programmer

May 7, 2007

First Geocaching Adventure

Filed under: daily life, technology, uk life — Josh DeWald @ 6:06 pm

Rachel and I headed into London today to go the “Science of Spying” exhibit at the National Science Museum. I would not recommend it for adults, it really is meant for kids and, possibly, teenagers. But, it get us into London. Before we went something clicked in me and I remembered the concept of ‘geocaching’ where you hide and seek items based on GPS. I figured that would be a great way to spend some time around the museums.

I ended up on the Geocaching website and created a login form myself. There are tons of sites in London so I specifically searched around the South Kensington area. After reading them, I downloaded the .loc file and used GPSBabel to transfer it to my Garmin eTrex Venture. I happened to do GC104M3, GCY0D5 and GCXWJD. I was unsuccessful at the first one, but amazingly Rachel was still willing to walk with me to try to locate the second one which was at a park near St. Luke’s search. We got there and there was a couple hanging around where the GPS unit said the cache was so Rachel and I had to wander around a bit nonchalantly. Blessedly, they left pretty quickly and were locating the cache. It was pretty exciting. It was just a film canister with a piece of paper (the “log”) but it now made us part of this sort of game that tons of people play without the rest of the world being aware. I mean, it really was in plain site for the most part but nobody really notices it. In fact, I’m still paranoid that I didn’t put it back hidden enough, because it just seems so damn obvious.

Because I’m such a nerd, here’s a screencap from Google Earth with our track around the cache. Some of the lines seem a bit stray and I don’t know if those are artifacts of the unit or if Google Earth is off by 25 feet or so (which seems reasonable). I’ve taken off the waypoint for the actual cache.

Geocaching around St. Luke’s

For the second one, GCXWJD we ended up around Sloane Square station at the Royal Hospital (the label for the cache is Chelsea Pensioners but I didn’t see that anywhere). Now that I knew what I was looking for I pretty easily spotted where I thought it might be, even when the GPS lost the signal. Amazingly though, I wasn’t able to locate it until I was sure (when the unit got the satellite back). Again, hidden in plain side. Exciting!

While Rachel wasn’t amazingly enthused, she was more into it after the initial skepticism that came about when I couldn’t locate the first one. It really didn’t help that I had grabbed the camera from the house but forgotten to put the memory chip back into it! She now wants to buy a bunch of buttons to put into the canisters (or whatever is the ‘treasure’) as our sort of ‘calling card’. Works for me!

Anyhow, I’m really looking forward to doing some geocaching around the Woking area, there are apparently quite a few of them. Humorously, people in the area who are not part of the hunt are known as ‘Muggles’ from the Harry Potter series. Seems very appropriate actually. You also get to feel a bit like a spy… grabbing these things without looking too terribly suspicious. Sort of like a dead letter drop, which seems particularly appropriate after having gone to the “Science of Spying” exhibit mentioned before.

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