Treasure Hunters, Turn on Your GPS for a Stupendous Adventure!

Treasure Hunters, Turn On Your GPS!
The age-old pursuit of treasure hunting is alive and well, and is growing more popular than ever with the help of modern technology.
Couple in red dress for Hiking
By Gary Orlando

Hunting for gold, so to speak, is now a reality for almost anybody. You no longer have to sift through a screened basket for hours/days/weeks to possibly uncover a small speck of gold barely visible to the naked eye to get some treasure. Now, thanks to modern technology, treasure hunting has reached new heights.

I'm talking about geocaching, a modern pursuit of treasure using a Global Positioning System (GPS) unit to go to the coordinates where a hidden item is located. It may not be actual gold, but as they say, 'it's the excitement of the hunt that has its own rewards'.

GPS got its very humble start back in the early '60s. Its need arose from the military wanting an accurate way to navigate the globe that would not be bothered by earth-bound annoyances such as fading daylight, a moonless night, storms or cloudy skies, etc. A couple of the early systems that were put into place did work, although they had some shortcomings. However, researchers had gathered enough information from these early systems to actually study an orbit-based solution, and they spent most of the '70s perfecting it. The first type of GPS satellite was launched in 1980 and through some tough budget-cutting of the program, the government was actually able to get most satellites up in orbit and functioning in the '80s.

Since the government was in charge of the system, they had to secure its use by actually inserting error information so the system could not be used against us by enemies. The way this worked was that if you used a GPS unit, at any time it might stop and be very inaccurate for as long as the government deemed necessary. The technology used was called Selective Service, and it absolutely drove industry leaders nuts because they had to use other means of navigation along with GPS for their commerce, and shipping procedures had to be revised.

So designers came up with one possible solution that used a land-based RF signal to supplement the GPS signal, for a more accurate reading. These land-based RF signals were used in secure areas. The Selective Service was supposed to be turned off for good in the future, after we had a better understanding of how it worked, and how to better protect ourselves from enemies who may have chosen to use the system against us. According to government officials, it was turned off for good (hopefully) in 2000. But the government still controls the technology, and could turn it on again in times of national emergency.

The demise of Selective Service opened the door to new and adventurous uses for GPS units. With Selective Service turned off, the accuracy of most GPS units is about 3 meters, or 10 feet. Modern GPS units vary wildly in features and price, but there are some models that can be purchased for as little as $100.

Geocaching is one of the newest use devised for GPS units. A few years ago a group of innovative guys on the Internet came up with the idea of hiding some things and then posting the coordinates of the hidden items on a website for people to find. When people discovered the site, they started looking. When the hidden treasures were found, other people reciprocated by hiding their own treasures and posting the locations. The hobby caught on like wildfire.

GPS hobbyists hide all sorts of things, including a log book for other treasure hunters to sign when they find it, photographs, toys, trinkets, and even food. The very best part about this hobby is that it can be very exciting and rewarding with very little cost, especially when searching with family members. Lots of families take vacations every year and spend the entire time geocaching and treasure hunting. What better way to instill family values, imagination, and resourcefulness in your children than to experience this with them? GPS units nowadays are packed with more features than ever, they're smaller and more portable than ever before, and they can give you the most fun-filled treasure-hunting adventure that you've ever had.
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