Geocaching Background - The History of Geocaching from Pirates to GPS Treasure Hunts

Page content

Geocaching – An Introduction

Geocaching is a revolution in the field of adventure sports. You may ask what is adventurous about geocaching. The answer lies in taking part yourself. The availability of GPS devices has led to a significant increase in geocaching as it has now become even more interesting. With geocaching, you visit places you might never otherwise venture to seek a possible “treasure.” With the usage of GPS devices, geocaching is often referred to as a “high tech treasure hunt.” Several websites exist with plenty of geocaches for you to locate. The largest website is, which has over a million geocaches.

Geocaching has been used for a variety of purposes. It was basically a serious treasure hunt in its early form (see the next section). Later, it was revived as community games and to teach people about tracking and navigation while exploring the natural environment. Geocaching is now a high tech hobby adopted by millions of adventure lovers worldwide. Based on the location of the geocaches, the game can include hiking, trailing, and many other adventure sports bundled together for adventure lovers.

The next section offers a briefing on the age-old concept that forms the base of geocaching.

Note: The term Geocaching Background is also used to refer to images that go with different geocaches that are logged online.

History of Geocaching

In olden days, the pirates of the Caribbean performed geocaching in a very simple way. They had maps and their own navigational systems, using which they hunted for treasure. History has shown that people were always interested in treasure hunts.

This tendency of exploring the unknown forms the basic concept of geocaching. The use of geocaching as a sport was first reported in the year 2000. The adventure sport has grown to such an extent that there are now more than 699,000 active geocaches spread across the planet.

Geocaching has become more of an addictive hobby that incorporates several popular adventure sports. It has taken several forms and is used even in education. The correct and careful use of the game can help us learn a variety of things.

Variations based on Geocaching Background

Treasure Hunts for Children

Kids can be involved in geocaching, going on treasure hunts like pirates. The person setting up the treasure hunt will be required to draw maps so the children can search for some rare treasure like berries or a pinecone. The thrill of hunting is more important than the ultimate treasure itself.

Geocoins and Travel Bugs

Geocoins and travel bugs have tracking numbers and travel from one cache to another. The adventures of these coins and travel bugs are tracked on an online diary. Travel bugs and geocoins are used in geocaching backgrounds, complete with special instructions from the owner and their own online diaries.

Solving Puzzles

This is the modern form of the game: a simple, inexpensive way of tracking for treasures. You hide something in a container (your geocache) and then mark the cache’s latitude and longitude. You then publish the details on a website or blog. has several million geocaches available for those who want to play the game. The system of placing details on the Internet allows anyone to go on a treasure hunt. The trail for treasure may make you climb trees, take long hikes or you perhaps access the cache only after the dark.

Once the cache is found, you need to sign a logbook. This way you can easily search for cache and read the logbooks that give you more details.

Note: The above are not the comprehensive list of the variations. There are several more and new ones are created regularly.

How Groundspeak Inc Changed the Entire Scenario of Geocaching

The early days of geocaching saw geocaches posted in closed communities such as newsgroups and sometimes on community blogs. The credit for creating specialized websites dealing only with the game goes to Groundspeak Inc., Seattle. The company was the first to launch a website that allowed players from across the planet to come together for playing the game. By now, you might have guessed about the website I am referring to:

The website is the brainchild of Jeremy Irish. It all started from the geocache placed by Dave Ulmereast of Portland. The geocache was located in the leftovers of a huge rocket box from the movie “Planet of Apes” (2001). This was posted to a newsgroup and was located by Mike Teague in just two days. He documented the process on his webpage.

When Jeremy Irish learned about it, he first tried to locate a cache using his handheld GPS unit. By the time he located the cache, he had devised the entire plan of starting a website allowing people to post information about their geocaches so others could hunt for the caches. The website was not a closed group. It was and is open to anyone who is willing to play.

When Jeremy started the site, he did not realize that he was starting a revolution that was soon adopted by several other people. The way the site was designed, it appealed to several people and within a year, became world’s biggest geocaching website.

As Jeremy says, “When I started the site with 75 caches that I had to hand enter, I never knew that I would have to incorporate programs and a database that can handle millions and millions of geocaches. We are now getting more than 1.4 million logs a month. The best thing we found is that people are getting together and sharing their experiences on the website.”

In short, considering the geocaching background before the year 2000, the small effort of Groundspeak Inc. changed the whole scenario of the game in terms of how it is played, by bringing in several enhancements and variations to the game while motivating others to start their own websites in the interest of people involved in geocaching.

This post is part of the series: Basics of Geocaching

This article series aims to present you with the basics of Geocaching. These basics of Geocaching include a small introduction as to what is the GPS game and its variations, geocaching backgounds, geocaching factsheet and more.

  1. A Look at Geocaching Background
  2. Top Websites: Best GPS Treasure Hunt Geocaches
  3. Factsheet on Geocaching - Fun, Adventure, and Environmental Education
  4. Understanding Difficulty and Terrain for Geocaching