By Cara Wagstaff
Geocaching was the buzz across Sydney last week. As part of National Youth Week 2015, the City of Sydney Council put on a free introductory event to geocaching for 12 to 25 year olds at Sydney Park in St Peters
Sydney Park was the site of a treasure hunt of an unusual kind recently. Volunteers from Geocaching NSW took a group of young adults on a tour of the park, visiting historic landmarks such as the old brickworks site and the cricket pavilion in search of hidden caches.
The treasure hunters were geocachers, participants i n an enthusiast hobby where users search for hidden treasure using global positioning system (GPS) coordinates
provided online and a GPS enabled device.
Andrew Nelson, a passionate geocacher, says, “A geocacher will hide a cache, usually a plastic container with a log book inside it. He or she will then post the GPS coordinates online for others to try and find it.
“Once a user has identified a cache, the next step is to put the GPS coordinates into a GPS-enabled device, such as a smart phone, and closely follow the directed path. At the destination, once the cache has been found, the user writes his or her name in the log book inside the cache to officially record the find.”
Geocaches are found all over the world. It is common for geocachers to hide caches in locations that are important to them, reflecting a special interest or skill of the cache owner.
Bruce Buchanan, a Geocaching NSW volunteer, says, “It is lots of fun, it takes you to places you never knew existed. I have met wonderful people who I am now close friends with as we share the same interest.”
Richard Jary, also a volunteer, says, “I’ve gotten to see national parks all across Australia and met a great bunch of people doing so.”
The aim of the City of Sydney Council event was to boost young people’s sense of achievement.
Cinzia Guaraldi, community programs officer at the Council, says, “It is good for creating confidence in youths and praising their skills. Sometimes they’re not getting praise at home, from their peers or friends. It’s a real boost for them to get positive feedback and acknowledgement from somewhere.”
Not only is geocaching a positive community initiative, but it also a great family bonding experience, Bruce Buchanan says. “I take my family with me; my son, and now my three grandchildren. I have set up each of them with their own Geocaching profile, and help complete their logs when they find a cache. It has brought us closer as a family.”
Geocaching started in 2000 when computer consultant and GPS enthusiast Dave Ulmer wanted to test the accuracy of the improved GPS signal available once the United States government ended the selective availability of GPS.
Mr Ulmer hid a container in the woods near Beavercreek, Oregon, and posted the GPS coordinates to an online community asking members to attempt to find the container.
Within three days, two users had found the container and described their experiences online.
Within a week, other readers began to hide their own containers, and post coordinates online for others to find.
Mike Teague, one of the first people to find Dave Ulmer’s container, began gathering coordinates and posting them on his own personal webpage ‘GPS stash hunt’. Over time, the name evolved to geocaching and became a hobby enjoyed all around the world.
After the introduction to geocaching event at Sydney Park, volunteers Bruce and Richard offered to take participants out geocaching with them.
And for those not at the event, Bruce says anyone can get involved by creating an account at http://www.geocaching.com to access the list of over two million hidden caches. Then all the participants need is a GPS enabled device, such as a smart phone to start searching.
Peter James Doueihi, a Sydney resident walking his dog in Sydney Park during the event, says, “I haven’t heard about geocaching before. I think it’s a great idea though, to get young adults away from their computers and outside.”