Canada's 1st Geocache
Feature in the Geocaching official blog (February 11, 2016)
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Beginnings of Geocaching and Canada’s First Geocache
By Ken Kane (eastriver)
This post is about my experiences with GPS and geocaching, and what led me to place the first cache in Canada. I was born in Fergus Ontario, then joined the Navy in 1964 and served until 1989. When I retired, my interests included ham radio, hunting and fishing and electronics in general.
My First GPS Use
GPS units for civilian use had been around since the early 90’s. But they were only accurate to about 100 yards. There was a certain lake I wanted to visit, and the only way to get there was overland through the brush. The use of a GPS would be ideal here. A buddy of mine owned the Home Hardware in Hubbards, Nova Scotia. So I borrowed one from him, and loaded the co-ordinates from a topo map and off I went. I was travelling through the woods with quite a bit of overhead tree cover. As I was passing through a shallow gully, which had better overhead clearance, the GPS suddenly said “Lake is near”. I looked around but couldn’t see any lake. I kept on course and soon the lake appeared. I didn’t catch any fish, but had a lot of fun on my first GPS outing.
The US military had developed the GPS System. They purposely made the signal less accurate for civilian use. They called this “Selective Availability”. In May of 2000, President Bill Clinton, under pressure from the FAA, who wanted to be able to use the potential accuracy of the system for their use, removed Selective Availability for all users. Many civilians had personal units at that time and suddenly had something that would take them to within meters of any position in the world. During the two Gulf Wars Selective Availability was re-activated and so GPS units were again less accurate for us during those periods.
After the “lake incident” I became more interested in GPSs. I found workgroups online where members discussed topics like “satellite navigation”. I was a member of that group, and could read where guys were discussing different units, and more importantly was how to update them. It’s much easier now to update any GPS than it was then. Guys were killing their GPS by not doing it correctly. I offered to update all the GPS units at Home Hardware and achieved that no problem. My buddy gave me a good deal on a Magellan 315. So it was on that workgroup where I seen Dave Ulmer hide some stuff (including the OCB) in the woods and invited his buddies to find where it was. Soon lots of guys were doing it to challenge their buddies. It soon became apparent that some sort of numbering system was needed.
On June 28th of 2000 I hid one at Exit #7 of Hwy 103. I emailed them to ask if it was the first in Canada. Two days later I got a reply that it was. So began 18 years of fun for me. The original “number” of my cache was GC41. At that time the geocaches, known then as Geostashes, and were more or less owned by Geocaching.com, mine was in the hands of Jeremy Irish. It soon got too much for them and they were given back to the care of those who had placed them. Mine then became GCBBA for some reason. Years later when I realized the significance of GC41 I asked them to change it back. But they just couldn’t do it because of all the “data” that had already been generated.
There were no Guidelines back then, no Reviewers, and nobody to even ask their opinion. No caches had been out long enough to even think about “winter friendly”! So my first “container” was a five gallon bucket with just its normal plastic lid. I knew that there was an old road through the Traffic Circle at Exit 7, so that’s where I put it. It seems to be a pretty good spot. I’ve only had one complaint in 18 years that it was placed adjacent to an Exit Ramp.
So now I had my Geostash out and would come home from work and check on-line to see if anyone had found it. Back then we did not get an automatic notice if someone logged your cache. I soon got tired of that and began checking once a week or so. Finally on Oct 5th of 2000 a group from Bridgewater NS found it. They had tried the day before by using a Topo Map. Having no success they purchased a GPS at Canadian Tire and tried again. I still have the original log book with their “story” in it.
GCBBA has 2500+ finds now, along with 4 DNF’s, which if I remember correctly are Not Winter Friendly related. A few months ago I was informed by Geocaching HQ that GCBBA was the first Traditional Cache in Canada to receive 500 Favourite Points. Recently, for the first time in 18 years, a CITO was held there.
In 2005 a cacher from Ontario, jtrex, suggested that some sort of plaque, or something, be placed at the site of GCBBA. He even suggested that it could be funded from up there. It was shortly after that several cachers formed the Maritime Geocaching Association to oversee doing just that. A geocoin was minted to help fund the new association and the plaque. It was decided to have a geostone made. It was built, and donated by Keith, aka Wallace-River, who is a stone-smith. The geostone is located at Graves Island Provincial Park, which is located about 7 Km west of GCBBA, on Hwy 3.
So why did I do it?
Mostly it was the love of electronics, which I had even before joining the Navy. In the Navy I started as a Radioman and later became an Electronics Technician. Once I started “updating” the Magellans and then getting my own, I was hooked. There was no way I was going to let others have all the fun! I didn’t log my first cache until June 16 of 2001, almost a year after placing the first one. There was not a lot of caches nearby at that time.
As a result of placing GCBBA I have had a lot of fun caching, seen many great places that I would have bypassed, and have met many different people, including lots from other countries. Geocachers are a very friendly group and I am pleased to be a member. I am also very proud to be part of Canadian Geocaching history.