FAQs

How is an EarthCache different from a virtual cache?

EarthCaches are in effect a type of virtual cache. They have no physical container or log book. However, EarthCaches are different from other virtual caches in so much as they teach the visitor something about the site. An EarthCache is not just a scenic view or a locality. They present some lesson on how that place formed, about why that place is important scientifically or what that site can tell us about our planet.

Why do EarthCaches have to be virtual caches?

The object of an EarthCache is to learn something about our planet. The reward is the lesson, not the trinkets in the container. Also, many EarthCaches are being developed in places where it is against the law to leave a container, such as in National Parks and at Geological Monuments.

Who reviews EarthCaches?

EarthCaches all have one fundamental goal — to educate the visitor. This is judged by the EarthCache team, which is a small group of people internationally who review and publish the Earthcaches. The team all follow the same guidelines and rules.

Are all EarthCaches that are submitted approved?

No. EarthCaches have to meet some solid guidelines. About 60% of submitted EarthCaches are approved in the first round. Many are sent back to the developers for reworking. Some suggestions may be given to how the text needs to be changed to be approved.

Can we develop EarthCaches in National Parks and other public land?

EarthCaches can be developed on public land only if you have the prior approval of the local land manager. Most land managers, once they are told that concept and that no physical container will be left behind, are happy to have an EarthCache in their park, forest etc. We would suggest however, that you develop EarthCaches in partnership with the land managers, to ensure that sensitive areas are avoided, that multi-cache concepts are used with waypoints to keep people on trails and that cache-in-trash-out is advertised.

Caches of any description that are developed on public land without prior approval are undesirable, and on some land illegal.

Can I develop an EarthCache in a cave area?

Cave areas are very sensitive. For this reason EarthCaches developed around caves in North America will go through an additional approval stage with the National Speleological Society to ensure that research and other factors are not being affected by people visiting the cache.

Can I develop an EarthCache as part of a museum or other exhibit?

GSA strongly encourages the development of EarthCaches outdoors rather than indoors. However, EarthCaches can be developed for indoor locations. Like an outdoor EarthCache, an indoor EarthCache must meet all general geocaching guidelines as posted at www.geocaching.com, as well as all EarthCaching guidelines, as posted at www.earthcache.org.

Can an EarthCache be in other languages besides English?

EarthCaches need to be in the language of the county in which they sit. However, as many will be visited by international visitors, we prefer that the cache notes also be in English and/or other languages. You may be asked to provide the text in English to assist in the review process.

Can I add technical notes for those visitors who are more scientific?

EarthCaches need to cater for those people who do not have scientific training. The language should not contain scientific jargon or terms unless these terms are explained. However, once an educational explanation of the site is written to meet these guidelines, more detailed or technical information is very welcome.

What do I need to have people do to log an EarthCache?

As EarthCaches are educational, visitors should log some aspect of their visit that shows they have learnt something from their visit. Please see the guidelines and Geocaching.com Help Center for more details.

EarthCaches are virtual and involve no container, so why do I need permission to place an EarthCache on some public properties?

Advance permission is required to ensure that bringing people to a site does not cause a conflict with the management of that site. Many sites have multiple management issues, such as the protection of rare and endangered fauna, the protection of archaeological artifacts and the protection of a geological phenomenon. In many cases that protection has been obscurity (i.e. because people don't know about it, they don't visit). By placing an EarthCache at some public sites, we may cause a management issue and so the land manager needs to make sure that the EarthCache fits into their management plan. Furthermore, seeking permission has raised the positive profile of caching in the eyes of land managers, opening the way for all types of geocaching on those lands. We realize that seeking permission to place an EarthCache seems like a superfluous step to many, but it is truly as important as developing great logging tasks!

As an EarthCache owner, can I use an “auto-response” e-mail account or a third-party website to check logging task answers and provide people with permission to post their logs to my EarthCaches?

Beginning on January 1, 2013, the answer is now "no".

We appreciate that you are attempting to make the logging process more efficient, however, the use of “auto-response” e-mails and third-party websites is not permitted, for two main reasons:

       1. People do not need to wait for permission to log your EarthCache. Requiring someone to wait is not supported by the EarthCache guidelines. People should send their logging task answers to you, then log your EarthCache. When you review their logging task answers, if there is a problem, you should contact them to resolve it. If there is no problem, then their log simply stands.

       2. The types of questions/answers used by “auto-response” e-mails and websites are too limiting and usually do not provide a strong educational experience, which is a vital part of EarthCaching. Logging tasks that ask for highly-specific, generally short answers, such as “15 meters” or “brown”, do not meet the educational goals of EarthCaching, and do not allow for enough flexibility or interpretation.

       Furthermore, the proper review of logging tasks is considered one of the basic maintenance duties that must be performed by EarthCache owners. Because no physical container must be maintained, it is expected that EarthCache owners take the time to review logging submissions on their own, without automated aids.

       Although there have been EarthCaches published in the past that use auto-response e-mails, this will no longer occur, as autoresponders are now prohibited by the January 1, 2013 update of the EarthCache guidelines.

Where can I find reliable geoscience information that I can use to develop EarthCaches of my own?

1. Don’t just rely on the Internet. Much of the best geoscience information will be found in books and journals, some of which may not be available online. Look at your local public library, university library, book store, etc.
2. Look for the most up to date information sources available. Geoscience is a rapidly changing field, so an old book about the geology of Georgia, published in 1962, may contain obsolete information or factual errors.
3. Mountain Press publishes two series of books that are great for EarthCaching:
Roadside Geology - http://mountain-press.com/series_detail.php?series_key=2
Geology Underfoot - http://mountain-press.com/series_detail.php?series_key=8&series_name=Geology%20Underfoot
4. Many local universities have earth science departments that can be a good information resource. Check their website, look for public visiting hours, a lending library, a museum/exhibit area, or staff who have time to provide assistance.
5. Local science or natural history museums often have exhibits, books, and staff that can provide information about an area’s geology.
6. Most countries and states/provinces have a “Geological Survey”, or a similar agency that is responsible for earth science information and resources. In the United States, the U.S. Geological Survey is the national agency responsible for earth science: www.usgs.gov. The Association of American State Geologists maintains a lists of state-based agencies that deal with earth science: http://www.stategeologists.org/surveys.php
7. The EarthCache program is coordinated by Geocaching.com and the Geological Society of America (GSA). Many nations, states/provinces, and even some smaller regions have their own geological societies, which can serve as a good source of local earth science information. Here is a list of societies affiliated with GSA: http://www.geosociety.org/divisions/. Here’s an example of a state-based society, the West Texas Geological Society: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geologic_map. These are often provided by agencies like the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) or state-based geological surveys.
9. Your local reviewer may be able to point you to resources, but keep in my mind some reviewers cover large areas.
10. Check other caches in the area, and if they provide links or resources, they may be useful to you also.

Somebody logged my EarthCache, but it appears they visited the location before my EarthCache was published. Should I allow the log, or delete it?

1. There is no rule that says somebody has to visit the location after publication in order to make a log.
2. HOWEVER, in GSA’s view, somebody has not actually visited an EarthCache if there was no EarthCache there at the time of their visit!
3. GSA has no problem with a cache owner deleting a log from somebody who has clearly not visited the EarthCache after its publication date.
4. If a cache owner wants to allow such logs to stand, that's fine too. (That's up to the cache owner. Maybe in some cases they would feel as though the person logging the cache did get a good lesson, by combining an earlier visit with solving the cache's logging tasks after the fact. The cache owner can be the judge of that.)

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