written by: Vikas Vij•edited by: Daniel P. McGoldrick•updated: 7/11/2011
Wish to become a virtual geological explorer? Join the EarthCache program which is supported by the Geological Society of America. All you need is a basic GPS unit to get started.
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Developing your own EarthCaches
An EarthCache is a type of virtual cache created by a GeoCacher who has a good knowledge of geoscience and wishes to share it with others. The key purpose behind this idea is to disseminate information about a specific geological feature of planet earth and to engage the interest of people in geological facts. When a person visits this form of a virtual cache, there are a whole lot of new things to learn about the geology of the area. At present there are more than 8,300 EarthCaches in 45 countries across the world, which have been visited by more than 100,000 people.
Photo Credit: EarthCache.org
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Educational Purpose of an EarthCache
The purpose of this effort is to educate the masses about earth science and involve their participation in learning about and preserving the planet. In this effort, the participants visit sites that are significant from the point of view of earth science to seek new insights about planet earth. Once the visit is over, the participants are expected to write about their new learning and experiences and share that information with others through the Internet and other means of communication.
To log into a virtual cache, it is important to provide proof that the visitor actually found the location or site of geological interest. Secondly, the visitor must be involved in an educational task of some kind related to geology. The Geological Society of America has now mandated that any new EarthCaches must be approved by them in advance. Visiting a cache also teaches a person important skills such as navigation and map reading.
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Masters Program from the GSA
The Geological Society of America controls the listing of official EarthCaches across the globe and offers a “Masters Program". Those who complete this program receive a pin as a mark of recognition for their accomplishment in learning more about planet earth. This Masters Program includes four levels. The Bronze level requires the visitor to have visited and logged three or more caches in two or more states or countries.
The Silver level requires the visitor to have visited and logged six or more caches in three or more states or countries and developed at least one cache. The Gold level requires the visitor to have visited and logged 12 or more caches in four or more states or countries and developed at least two EarthCaches. The Platinum level requires the visitor to have visited and logged 20 or more caches in five or more states or countries and developed at least three EarthCaches.
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Requirements to visit an EarthCache Site
To visit a site, you will require a Global Positioning System (GPS) Receiver in order to decipher satellite signals. This GPS receiver will compute your position on the planet in latitudinal, longitudinal and altitudinal terms. The GPS units are commonly available in different sizes and shapes. Geocachers mostly use a small, hand-held unit which is easily available from any electronics or adventure equipment stores.
You need to learn how to read the GPS instructions properly and feed any specific latitude and longitude positions into the unit in order to find a location. For details on exactly how to find your own virtual cache site, you can visit the official website of this program and go ahead with your own geological exploration.