Thoughts on Earthcaching
Earthcaching is becoming more and more popular. More and more people are looking into listing them and taking the steps needed to create one.
What is an Earthcache
Earthcaches have been around for a while, and have gone through a number of subtle changes over the years. There are a lot of them out there now. I do not know the exact number, but I am surprised at how many appear.
Many mistake that they are just a virtual. They are created to be educational, and point out a specific location, or geological site to others. Because of the educational nature, they are to teach you about the different locations.
There are a number of Earthcache subjects that are considered acceptable.
- Geological materials - Rocks, minerals, fossils, sands, soils, etc.
- Geological processes - erosion, weathering, deposition, volcanic activity, glacial action, etc.
- Geological land form evolution - glacial valleys, reverse topography due to rock properties, waterfalls with geological explanations, use of geological materials - building stones, etc.
- Geological phenomena (not included above) - impact craters, geysers, mineral springs, etc.
- Tools used by geologists - index fossils, rocks, historical geology sites.
A number of others are not acceptable
Biology, Botany, Zoology, Ecology, Atmospheric observations, Oceanographic observations, Geodesy (unless specifically linked to the location), Archeology, History (unless it has a geological theme), a building (unless it has a geological lesson), Engineering (unless it has a geological theme).
Also there are a number that are limited or restricted because of how many there are.
- Watershed Divides
- River Confluences
- Artesian Wells/Springs
- Glacial Erratics
In the last year there are a number of changes that have taken place.
Geocaching online Earthcache Submittals
At one time the only way there was to submit a cache was to go to the Earthcaching site and list it. From there it was translated into the geocaching site by the reviewer. It was a time consuming and long process.
Addition of many Earthcache Reviewers.
There were not many reviewers and the few that were involved were dealing with the entire program, and looking at all the Earthcaches. That meant long delays of 4-6 weeks before any look at an Earthcache took place.
Defining of acceptable Earthcache types.
There are many caches out there that seem to not fall into the acceptable sciences. Those caches were done in a different time under different circumstances.
No photo requirement
Just like it says there are no photos required for Earthcaches anymore. Many are not ready for it, or ready for the change. It is not just the new caches but older caches cannot require a photo anymore. Earthcaches are not like a virtual. It is not about the visit, it is about the educational value. So many were turning into virtuals, and people were deleting logs for no photo.
How can I get my Earthcache approved.
Permission is required for many locations. In parks, fields, forest service, BLM, in the US you need to have permission before it can be listed. Some areas near a road, or in some countries no permission is required. If in question ask. For National Park Service properties you will require specific permission. That means an email will need to be sent to the reviewer from the National Park authority. This may also be asked in other areas, such as a Wilderness area.
As mentioned above make sure that the topic is the proper topic and that is the focus. Having 15 paragraphs on the history of an area, then one on the geology would most likely not be published. Some had been listed in the past that fit Ecology subjects, botany, or zoology. Those no longer fit the subject of the Earthcache program.
A polished river rock, has earth science on how it was created. However they are common and scatted everywhere about the world. Why is that site special. It could be the stone is special, how it is tumbled, or something similar, but in general you could have issues getting it listed.
Something generic.. a moraine, spring, glacial erratic, layering of sedement seen by a highway may be interesting, but tell someone why this location is interesting, why this particular site is special.
Some areas are treasure troves of geologic sites. Yellowstone is a fantastic example. Hundreds of geysers, many more warm springs, mud pots, etc. Your cache should highlight the site and say why it is different or special. While worldwide a geyser may be impressive and worth a listing that is generic, in the heart of Yellowstone an Earthcache on one of 500 geysers should highlight why it is special, and not duplicate another nearby. Telling the same story with a different geyser, arch, or bridge name, or copying a neaby feature would not be listed.
If you have a similar feature but you add much more information it may be listable. A cache may highlight the erosion of a canyon, talking about how it eroded. Another cache may highlight the stone/sediment that makes up the canyon. It may be the same feature, but the topic is different. We don't care about the feature, but the topic.
Teach those around you. Make the people learn. Tell them about the location, why it is special. A virtual cache may point out the pretty rocks at a location. An Earthcache will talk about how there were formed, eroded from the wall, why they rest here, or why the mineral is important.
The more you teach, the more people enjoy and remember the visit.
Remember no Photos. So you need to do a few things.
- Logging tasks need to be Earthcache related. In other words, the fifth word from the second paragraph on the sign, would not work. Tell someone about the plants in the area would not work as well.
- Make sure they cannot be solved from the internet. Remember there is a lot of information there. Google maps let people see a formation from the road, Wikipedia talks about how stones are formed.
- Your logging task should make sure that the person visited. You need to make sure a logging task proves that a cacher was there. What direction was erosion taking place, the size of the grains, or makeup of a conglomerate. Colors, smells, opinions on how something formed, comparisons, can all be great logging requirements.
- Measurements tent to be bad. Asking an altitude is bad. Especially if you are asking someone to look at a gps. Anyone can get the altitude from the topo map. A measurement is easily passed around, guessed, or solved from other areas. In some cases these work, but in many cases they can cause issues.
Other notes and final thoughts
You can do an Earthcache when on vacation, however you can have a number of issues. If your logging requirements are weak, or if some rework needs to be done, then you may not be able to rework them. With luck you will have everything ok, if not be ready for alternatives.
If you have an Earthcache, remember you have to maintain it. Some will try and log it and never visit, some will log it poorly and you may need to contact them. On another note, you may want to make sure that you email them before you delete the logs.