Geocaching and Benchmark Hunting – real life treasure hunting
Before the virtual reality of Pokémon Go there was Geocaching, a real life treasure hunt using GPS to find hidden items all over the world. Geocaching involves searching for an item, usually deposited in a box or container, using GPS coordinates and clues. Inside the container are prizes for the successful hunter who must then replace the items with something for the next person to find and sign their name in a log book. Geocaching has been around since the year 2000 and still has a huge following with 2.8 million geocaches and counting currently hidden around the world.
A less well known branch of Geocaching is Benchmark Hunting. You’ve probably passed countless benchmarks without even realising it. A benchmark is a marker (often a metal disk) created by surveyors that is used by surveyors, builders and engineers as starting points when making measurements. Many benchmarks were created decades ago and are now unnoticed markers of history. However, they are still used by surveyors today to measure landscapes and map out infrastructure. Benchmarks “are kind of like a skeleton or basic framework” for laying out towns and cities, said Malcolm Archer-Shee, a programmer who works with the National Geodetic Survey’s Integrated Database in the United States.
You don’t need to travel too far to find a geocache or benchmark in your area. You can discover hidden treasures in your neighbourhood, on buildings, mountains, the bush and even underwater.
For both benchmarks and geocaches, many people log their findings online to keep track of what they’ve already found and share the information with others.
To start hunting geocaches all you need is a smartphone or GPS and an account on geocaching.com.au. You can also download the app, which is great for finding on the go. The free membership allows you to find or hide objects in your area, share your own GPS coordinates or location descriptions, log your findings and rate or comment. While benchmarks aren’t yet as thoroughly documented in Australia as they are in the States, this alternative could soon become a new area of discovery for avid geocachers.
Saturday 20th August was International Geocaching Day. Check out some posts on Instagram from geocachers all over the world below.