2005-05-20 / Front Page

High–tech scavenger hunt Geocachers invade hallowed ground

By Rachel Haynie

The gate to First Presbyterian Church’s cemetery now has to be locked every night. The stunning discovery that geocachers were playing a high–tech game of “Kick the Bucket” in the hallowed space forced the decision. First Presbyterian Church is just one local church shocked to learn about geocachers and geocaching. Shady Grove United Methodist Church, set deeply in Irmo’s Dutch Fork, is a far harder–to–reach destination than the historic urban church, but it also has experienced unwelcome visits by geocachers. This still–new, high–tech sport or recreation may be compared to treasure hunting or the Old English sport of letterboxing.

A geocacher displays his find
A geocacher displays his find

Geocachers post latitude and longitude coordinates on the Internet, telling anyone who logs on where to go looking for caches (waterproof goody boxes) containing notes or trinkets. The geo part of their moniker comes from their mode of tracking. They use hand–held orienteering equipment, Global Positioning Systems (GPS) to find the caches.

Once the gadget geeks pinpoint the loot, they engage in a curious ritual. They trade an item from the cache for something of their own, sign the logbook, and return the container to its hiding spot.

This geocacher found the loot in a graveyard.
This geocacher found the loot in a graveyard. This description was included in an article in the current issue of Governing Magazine that landed on the desk of House Representative Catherine Ceips, District No. 124, Beaufort County.

Cieps has been monitoring closely the geocaching movement since constituents at several African–American churches in Beaufort brought the invasive recreation to her attention more than a year ago.

Evidence that geocaching games are being played in cemeteries and on other historic sites, archeological properties, and ruins has perplexed park personnel locally and nationally. The practice has raised suspicion among homeland security officials who don’t view the placement of geocaches under bridges as the harmless fun claimed by geocachers.

Cieps’ research indicated that historic sites, such as cemeteries, archaeological–sensitive areas, ruins, and historic sites have often been chosen by players as repositories of the clues leading to caches buried or hidden for others to find. Clue seekers may be anyone with access to the Internet.

The SC Geocachers Association has approximately 100 members. Recently, on Cache In Trash Out Day, members were involved in a clean–up on the Edisto River.

Countless other clue chasers, who are not members of the association, have equal access to the Internet clue postings as do the eco–friendly association members.

Cieps let her colleagues in the SC House of Representatives decide for their constituents whether geocaching is harmless fun or an invasion of privacy recently. The body of evidence she presented to House members supported the protective bill she introduced.

H 3777 passed the House, and now must be voted on by the Senate to become law. The bill proposes that geocaching players must receive permission from landowners before coming onto property.

Cieps said the bill “protects the rights of the private or public property owners but will also protect our state’s history, culture, and religious sites.”

Calling cemeteries and burial grounds “hallowed places,” Cieps said, “We have a solemn duty to act as stewards of these historical and cultural sites for generations of South Carolinians yet born.”

The Beaufort representative has received letters of support from many faiths and is now seeking support from individuals and organizations whose missions are to protect the state’s culture.

Support can be manifested via calls to state senators. Go to www.geocaching.com for more information about the practice or sport.

Editor’s note: Geocaching was featured on Law and Order: Criminal Intent May 8, 2005.

Return to top