With the container and its contents now ready for our first cache the list of things left to do was slowly getting shorter. Probably one of the most important jobs to be done when setting a new cache is to gather coordinates. Not having a dedicated GPS it would be up to the iPhone to do the job. I was a little concerned about whether this would be accurate enough so it was time to saddle up the web browser again and go do some research.
Here I am, back again after my research session and the verdict seems to be that the iPhone is good enough to gather coordinates but you need to use an app that is more accurate that the geocaching app to get the cords. I found an app called Perfect Mark that allows you to take multiple readings for a location and then use a function to find the center point of all your readings effectively making it an average. The best way to do this is to approach your location slowly from one direction and wait for the GPS to settle then snap a reading. Then approach it from another direction and take another. Keep repeating this and keep an eye on how accurate the readings being taken are. This will obviously fluctuate depending on weather conditions and obstructions. The more readings you can get at the highest accuracy the better.
As a double check I also got Shar to download a similar app onto her Samsung and she took readings too. Hers were done in a slightly different way using an auto averaging feature that keeps taking readings and averaging them together. All you need to do is hold the phone at your location and keep it still for a few minutes and the phone does the rest. With her readings and mine I can then compare them and take an average of the two if they are wildly different.
This is all a bit technical but lets not forget the human side of this as well. Performing all of the above does has the side effect of making you look like a complete plank; holding your phone out in front of you like it is some sort of Star Trek gadget whilst you repeatedly walk to the same place from different directions. At the end of the day it all looks a bit strange but if geocachers were overly worried about looking like they were a bit strange then they would never leave home. Let’s face it we spend a lot of our time, staring at our phones, pretending to make phone calls, tying our shoe laces, popping in and out of bushes and groping walls, fences, signs and trees.
With a good set of coordinates collected and checked you have to get them in the right format and then round them to the number of decimal places that Geocaching.com needs. Perfect mark returns coordinates for the degrees to 4 decimal places but geocaching.com only uses 3. I have returned to my chosen locations more than once and taken readings on different days and am finally happy that I have got the coordinates as accurate as I can.
The next stage was to collect some clues. The nature of my cache is that you first have to solve an anagram to find the name of the street to go to and then when you are there, you have to collect some numbers from various places in the street to assemble the final coordinates. So we spent an hour or so wandering up and down the street in question finding numbers on things that we could use for the clues. Then when we had done that it was back home to work out a way to turn all these numbers into a formula that people could use to get the cords.
At this stage the paranoia started to creep in. You start to question everything you are doing as it has to be right on the mark otherwise you will be sending people on a wild goose chase. I found myself writing the clues over and over again and checking the numbers and formula until I was utterly sick of the sight of it…. Or at least of hearing it. You start doubting you took the cords right, or that you didn’t do it enough times. Then you doubt that you took all the clues numbers down right. Once you finally write a formula down you doubt your ability to do simple maths and it turns out to be true. I was concentrating so hard that I made a simple error in my own checking of the problem which would have had people off to god knows where.
Last thing to do is to write the cache page listing on geocaching.com and submit it for review. Geocaching.com has a very nice listing creator that walks you through everything you need to do step by step in order to publish your listing and I will waffle about that for a bit in my next entry.
As the day of publishing our first cache approached the excitement levels were rising fast.