Extreme geocaching

Geocaching is a recreational treasure hunt, with containers hidden worldwide just waiting to be found. And I do mean worldwide: they can be found at the very bottom of the world, the very top of the world, and even out of this world entirely.

NASA, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Geocaching is exactly my kind of whimsical recreation. Think of it as a global, ongoing, friendly treasure hunt.

For the last two decades, eager volunteers have hidden small containers (plastic or metal boxes, mostly) in public areas – the “caches.” They then post its location coordinates online, or give clues that lead to its location. When someone finds the cache, they can signal their success by leaving their own mark on the cache. This can include entering their name in a paper “visitor’s log,” for example, or taking or leaving a trinket from the cache’s store. Some caches include USB drives or webcams or some other surprise.

Geocaching is truly global. The chances are extremely good that there’s a cache not too far from where you are right now. (I did a quick search from my current location and found three within five minutes’ walk.) You’ll find them in parks and under benches, on nature trails and in urban jungles. But some geocachers have gone to some rather remarkable extremes.

There are caches in Antarctica, including at least one at the South Pole. There is apparently a cache at the top of Mount Everest. Okay, so it’s fairly unlikely that you or I will be able to get to those ones. They are not the most inaccessible caches out there, though. For that, we’ll have to go even further afield.

In 2008, space tourist Richard Garriott left a cache on the International Space Station. It was found by another astronaut just once, in 2013, and the cache itself was permanently retired in 2017. And that’s still not the most inaccessible cache. For about a year, there has been a cache on Mars.

Now, the Martian cache does not have a log book – for what I hope are obvious reasons. It’s a glass disc attached to the Perseverance Rover, and it currently holds the record for the most distant geocache in history.

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