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Have you ever gone on a scavenger hunt? You might have used a map as you searched for a list of treasures. If your scavenger hunt took place in the woods, your list probably included things like pinecones, acorns, or the feather from a bird.

A new sport uses GPS in a high tech approach to scavenger hunts. It is called geocaching. Geocaching gets its name from the prefix geo- and the word cache. Geo- refers to geography. A cache is a hiding place where hikers and campers place items for safekeeping. Sometimes campers place food in a cache to prepare for an upcoming camping trip. In geocaching, you would not place items in caches for your own use, but for others to find as part of the hunt.

Geocaching is a young sport. It started on May 3, 2000, when a man named Dave Ulmer hid a bucket of items in the woods outside Portland, Oregon. He posted its location on an Internet site. Within a day, someone found his cache of food, a compass, and a videotape. Within a few days, more caches had been hidden in other states. Within a month, someone in Australia had hidden a cache. Through the Internet, the popular new hobby was quickly spreading around the world.


Many people geocache in groups or with their families. It's a fun way to spend time together, enjoying the natural world. First, you'll need a GPS receiver. Try to choose one that stores waypoints as a track log, so you can retrace your steps after finding the cache. Then, log on to an Internet site that lists caches in your area. You can choose an easy or difficult hunt depending on the abilities of your group.


Once you've decided on a cache, create a waypoint in your GPS unit by entering its latitude and longitude. Then choose a small item that you don't mind giving away. You'll be leaving this at the site for the next geocacher who comes along.

Using your GPS unit to guide you, begin your treasure hunt to the cache. You'll follow the arrow on your GPS as it brings you closer and closer to the point you entered earlier.

Finally, you'll find it! Open it up and see what wonderful trinkets others have left. Now comes the fun. You get to take an item with you from the cache. Just be sure to leave an item, too. One day, maybe soon, another adventurer will discover this cache, and they, too, will open it up to see what treasure awaits!


Additional topics

Science Encyclopedia for KidsGPS: Global Positioning System