Monday, January 01, 2007

The History of Geocaching

The History of Geocaching

Svensk översättning

GPS, or Global Positioning System, was developed by the US Department of Defense. This satellite navigation system was intended for military use and therefore the signals were scrambled, limiting accuracy for civilian use to about 100 meters. On May 1, 2000, President Clinton announced that this scrambling, known as Selective Availability (SA), would be turned off. Civilians were then able to enjoy accuracy on the order of 10 meters.

On May 3, 2000, Dave Ulmer proposed a way to celebrate the demise of SA. He hid a bucket of trinkets in the woods outside Portland, Oregon and announced its location in a posting made to the USENET newsgroup sci.geo.satellite-nav. This announcement is remarkable for laying out the essence of the hobby that is still in place today. It's all there. The container. The trinkets. The log book. The rule of take something, leave something, sign the logbook. Dave Ulmer invented geocaching in one fell swoop in that newsgroup posting.

Within a day, the original stash had been found. Within days, more stashes had been hidden in California, Kansas, and Illinois. Within a month, a stash had been hidden as far away as Australia. The hobby was fast on its way to being a worldwide phenomenon.

On May 8, Mike Teague announced a Web site for collecting the locations of caches. The original Web page is gone, but thanks to the Wayback Machine, a copy of the GPS Stash Hunt Homepage still exists.

On May 15, James Coburn set up a mailing list on eGroups (now Yahoo!) for discussion of geocaching. The list is no longer in existence. Its archives contain the best record of the early days of the hobby.

On December 15, 2020, Yahoo! discontinued Groups. The email archives are still available in Download and unzip to read. Individual emails can be found in annual folders. A flat file of all emails can be found in All.mbox.txt". The easiest way to search the archives is do a text search in the flat file, then look up the individual email of interest in the annual folders.

On May 30, a new name was coined for the hobby. Matt Stum suggested "geocaching" to avoid the negative connotations of the word "stash".

So, within a month, the hobby had in place the rules, its first hides and finds, a mailing list and a home page. And the number of caches was growing fast.

On September 2, 2000, Jeremy Irish emailed the gpsstash mailing list that he had registered the domain name and had setup his own Web site. He copied the caches from Mike Teague's database into his own. On September 6, Mike Teague announced that Jeremy Irish was taking over cache listings.

From the outset, Jeremy Irish considered ways to make money from geocaching. was setup as a .com site, not .org. He sold banner ads to GPS manufacturers and retailers. He soon gave up on banner ads, which he discovered did not make that much in revenue. He accepted direct donations via PayPal and arranged commissions from GPS retailers through Web site referrals. He also turned to clothing sales. He claimed to have coined the word geocaching and applied for a trademark on the word, despite it being in common use as descriptive of the hobby since the month geocaching was invented. He incorporated as Grounded, Inc.

Some moves were immediately controversial. Early on, when geocaching was still smaller than the older hobby of Letterboxing, Irish made an attempt to absorb Letterboxing into the Web site. The move was resisted by other members of the gpsstash mailing list. Eventually, Irish gave up trying to take over Web services for Letterboxing.

Another controversial move was the monopoly control Irish unilaterally imposed over the database of cache locations, refusing to provide the full list to anyone. Criticisms of his actions on the original gpsstash mailing list were met with the establishment of his own mailing list hosted on his own site. Ironically, Irish cited "moderation" of his own posts as a reason why he would no longer participate in geocaching discussions on the only geocaching mailing list at that time. Censorship of posts would soon become a controversial matter on Irish's own Web site.

In the meantime, of course, geocachers were busy hiding and finding geocaches in an ever growing number of countries. That brings us to the end of 2000, just a short 8 months after the invention of the hobby. The great controversies still lay in the future: pin maps and copyright and the Planet of the Apes commercial caches and censorship of the Creator of Geocaching and pay-to-play members-only caches. And how Dave Ulmer and Navicache and Robin Lovelock became words that you dare not utter on

The first recorded instance of a geocaching get-together (now known as an event cache) was held in Austin, Texas, on March 24, 2001. It was hosted by Eoghan and Pumpkin Princess. The "hide" date was set as the actual date of the event (which became standard practice) and the meeting location coordinates were used for the "cache coordinates".

About this time, a geocacher in New York state by the name of Quinn set up a regional geocaching Web site named Navicache. Reportedly, Jeremy Irish threatened a lawsuit unless Quinn's site delete use of the word geocaching, presumably because of Irish's trademark application. Quinn resisted and instead turned into a full-fledged geocaching resource, adding cache listings. became the largest alternative database of cache listings.

A geocacher in California named Ed Hall (aka Buxley) created online maps showing the locations of geocaches. Rather than welcome Buxley's contribution towards promoting the new sport of geocaching, in May, 2001, Jeremy Irish threatened legal action unless Buxley add a copyright notice to his maps stating "Geocaching Data Copyright 2001 Grounded, Inc." Irish also removed the link to Buxley's Web pages from and announced the release of his own basic mapping capability. The incident received widespread attention when it was reported in a Slashdot article.

In May, 2001, Irish extended's business model more directly into the pay-to-play world, despite a pledge to keep the game "free" and "non-commercial." Besides the banner ads, clothing sales, and sales of geocaching log books, bumper stickers, decals, etc., he now introduced "members-only caches" and fee-based hitchhiker logging. The members-only caches were accessible only to those who paid a $30/year membership fee. Likewise, the ability to track the movements of hitchhikers, aka Travel Bugs (TM), using the site's own logging system, was available only to those who paid Irish $5.95 per hitchhiker (informal, home-grown methods of tracking one's hitchhikers remained free, of course). These moves upset some geocachers, but others defended Irish and the new pay-to-play schemes became firmly established. By mid-2003, had over 150,000 registered users, including an estimated 7,200 paid subscribers at $30 per year.

Besides the earlier established, another full-featured geocaching site emerged in reaction to's increased commercialization and monopolistic control over the hobby. GeocachingWorldwide was developed by an Australian geocacher, Jeremy Hurst, interested in developing a system whereby multiple Web sites would share data about geocache coordinates. Sites would be free to compete on features, not the geocache data contributed by geocachers themselves. Despite a promising beginning, demands on the Webmaster's time by work and family prevented continued development and activity at GeocachingWorldwide ceased in late 2001.'s reaction to new geocaching Web sites was to censor the mention of their names in the forums. This censorship led to the establishment of a USENET newsgroup, alt.rec.geocaching, a forum uncensorable not only by Irish, but by any geocacher or geocaching organization.

A fourth full-featured geocaching Web site, (no longer in existence), emerged from nowhere in June, 2002. Its developers openly presented it as a commercial geocaching site, which ironically triggered critical postings in the forums against commercial geocaching Web sites. However, after a brief spate of messages to the GeoGamer forums, there was no further activity at

Not all the controversies in geocaching were over the monopolistic practices of Irish and Grounded, Inc. Ironically, one of the most bitter dealt with a single geocacher and his use of the hobby to promote his own GPS-related business. Robin Lovelock, of the UK, created many caches near his own home, leaving his business card and a CD-ROM of his software in each. This combination of cache density and personal advertising irritated other geocachers to the point where some of Robin Lovelock's caches were plundered and his name became unmentionable in the UK forums on

As of early 2006, many Web sites had emerged that listed geocache listings. Some of these had short lives, some had staying power. The known sites (with the date they began accepting geocache listings):

If you have other geocaching history to contribute to this brief look at the origins of the hobby, I would be pleased to add it. Email me at

Another reference to the early history of geocaching can be found at Kimbo's Geocache Page


from Tony O
date Nov 16, 2010

Recently there's been a bit of a buzz about I've posted a few caches there, and they have quite a few more cache types than the groundspeak's. The innovative dead drop cache is great, and I am publishing one soon. It is unique to that site.

Opencaching does not encourage cross posting of cache listings, but allows it; they will publish the link to other caching sites as a courtesy to those users who have accounts there. Groundspeak, of course, does not allow either.
Copyright ©


From: Dave (
Subject: The Great American GPS Stash Hunt !
Newsgroups: sci.geo.satellite-nav
Date: 2000/05/03

The Great American GPS Stash Hunt !!

Now that SA is off we can start a worldwide Stash Game!! With
Non-SA accuracy it should be easy to find a stash from waypoint
information. Waypoints of secret stashes could be shared on the
Internet, people could navigate to the stashes and get some
stuff. The only rule for stashes is: Get some Stuff, Leave some
Stuff!! The more valuable the stuff the more stashes will be

I'm thinking of half burying a five gallon plastic bucket with
lid at the stash point. Putting in some stuff. Adding a logbook
and pencil so visitors can record their find. The log should
contain: Date, Time, What you got, and What you put in. Scanning
the log book should give you a quick inventory of the stash.

I'll look for a place near a road where few people would
normally go... Put in some cash, an old digital camera, and some
antique silverware!! I will come up with a cool name for my
stash and post coordinates soon!!!

Make your own stash in a unique location, put in some stuff and
a log book. Post the location on the Internet. Soon we will have
thousands of stashes all over the world to go searching for.
Have Fun!!



From: Dave (
Subject: GPS Stash Hunt... Stash #1 is there!
Newsgroups: sci.geo.satellite-nav
Date: 2000/05/03

Well, I did it, created the first stash hunt stash and here are
the coordinates:

N 45 17.460
W122 24.800

Lots of goodies for the finders. Look for a black plastic bucket
buried most of the way in the ground. Take some stuff, leave
some stuff! Record it all in the log book. Have Fun!

Stash contians: Delorme Topo USA software, videos, books, food,
money, and a slingshot!

* Sent from RemarQ The Internet's Discussion Network *
The fastest and easiest way to search and participate in Usenet - Free!

Stash Hunt Website

From: Mike Teague (
Subject: GPS Stash Hunt Homepage
Newsgroups: sci.geo.satellite-nav
Date: 2000/05/08

I put together a stash hunt page.. Still under development, but most
everything you need to know is there..

Mike Teague -
WW5126-RGE0002-N024MT - ZSE C2

The Word Geocaching

From: Matt Stum
Date: Tue May 30, 2000 10:04 am
Subject: Cache vs. Stash

Regardless of the final name, can we please replace
the word "stash" with "cache"? "GPS Cache Hunt"
and "Geocache" still sound find. I believe it still works
with all of the variations that David came up with
(Geocaching, geocacher, etc).

Here's my reasoning:

1) Several people have already stated their dislike for
the term "stash" on the basis that it sounds illegal.
To my ears, "stash" sounds a little immature, but that's
a personal feeling.

2) "Back in the old days", especially in the Yukon and
northern climes, explorers would leave caches of food
and supplies at known locations so that they'd
have them on their return trip. Some caches were
"community property" and known by all who took a
particular trail. If they needed something, they took it,
and if they had extras of something, they left it. Sound

3) The word "cache" both brings forth feelings of nostalgia for the
days of exploring, as well as a "techie" feeling for those
that associate it with computer memory.

Personally, when I get a chance to check on my cache's
again (they're 6 hrs from where I live) I'll remove all references
to any particular game. I'll probably add a custom rubber
stamp and register the cache with the letterboxing folks as
well. Might as well double the fun. My "clue" for the letterboxing
folks will simply be the lat/lon coordinates. I believe their game
is flexible enough to allow that.


From: "Jeremy Irish"
Date: Sat Sep 2, 2000 10:12 pm
Subject: RE: [gpsstash] GPS Stash home page

Yesterday it looked like the site had gone down, so I sent Mike an email. I
also noticed that the root of the site looks like the machine went through a
reinstall. Haven't heard anything more.

I was hoping to wait until there was more functionality available, but I
might as well plug - All the stashes are available on the
site (and hopefully current), and I added some new capabilities to help you
find each stash. Some of the stuff works (like you can log a find online)
but some of the administration of your own stashes doesn't work quite yet.
Any input would be appreciated.

The geocaching phenomenon is starting to get too big to maintain on multiple
sites - hopefully I can add some functionality to take it to the next level
and make it easier to grow. I already talked to Mike Teague via e-mail and
he likes the direction so far. Let me know what you think!

New capabilities:
Nearest placenames (US only - trying to get other country data) to caches
Closest caches by zip code (US only again)
All caches have their own page with mapping data.
You can log a cache online (owners of caches will be able to remove bogus

Will be adding the ability to add your own stashes, update content, add
pictures of your visits, etc.
(it also works at - the way it sounds)



The Takeover
From: "Mike Teague"
Date: Wed Sep 6, 2000 3:59 pm
Subject: Re: [gpsstash] You should get a mirror site...

jeremy irish, owner of is in the process of taking over what
my site has done up to this point.... it will have more functionality than
I could ever build into mine.. hopefully it will make the whole game more

I dont really have time to keep a site up-to-date anymore, but I will remain
involved in the game...after all, my site was originally intended only to be
a _temporary_ home for the gps stash community...

in the mean time, while jeremy gets all up to speed and
operational, my site will remain up, (if my damned ISP ever gets around to
fixing the server) and I will continue to maintain the master list for Matt
Stum's distance calculator at

I will probably discontinue the state-by-state listings for the caches on my
page though..

Mike Teague -

Clothing Sales
From: "Jeremy"
Date: Tue Dec 19, 2000 4:51 pm
Subject: Geocaching T-shirt, hat, etc?


I was thinking about designing a t-shirt or some other item for Geocaching,
and was curious to know if anyone would be interested in buying such a
thing? It so happens I work for a company that prints promotional products
(t-shirts, hats, etc) and my boss thought it would be pretty cool to make a
t-shirt, hat, or some ad-specialty product like a compass. Because I work
for them (and he's excited about the game), we can get the shirts for less
than it would cost to do something with

We do company products like Hard Rock Cafe, the Cartoon Network, Starbucks,
etc., so the shirts would turn out pretty cool. I'll keep the cost way down
since I'm more interested in having the products made than making any money
off of it. I will, however, have to put some money into it up front in order
to pay for the cost of printing, etc., so I'd rather know if people would
want something like this up front.

If you're interested in buying such a thing or have some ideas on what would
be a cool item to have, let me know! I posted this to, so you can chat there, or contact me direct
(jeremy at

(One idea is to have an "official" water-tight container for geocaching, or
a "kit" with a logbook, etc. I'm seeing a lot of trash bags and other odd
containers being used lately.)



From: John De Wolf
Date: Thu Sep 14, 2000 1:47 pm
Subject: Geocaching and letterboxing

I've been a member of this list since late spring and have been involved in
letterboxing for almost 2 years now. Some of the recent actions taken at concern me greatly. I will try to address some of my key
concerns below:

Jeremy wrote:
>Again, I'm talking to the tech team at, so any further
>discussions will be considered off topic. No need to beat this horse.

This issue is very much "on topic" since it relates to what is being done at Isn't the purpose of these lists to illicit healthy
discussions about issues. As a member of this list, I feel this is far from
beating a dead horse, and is deserving of fair and well-reasoned discussion.
Also, I am a member of the "tech team at", and while I have
had private, off-list communication with Jeremy, I have yet to witness any
discussion from Jeremy with the team.

Jeremy wrote:
>On a side topic, Letterboxing and GPS stash hunt games are very similar in
>nature. Since geocaching is a pretty broad term, does anyone object to
>merging the two games together under the Geocaching name? The more back-end
>work I do on the more similar they become.

I object. The 2 games, while sharing some similarities, are very different.
Letterboxing dates back to 1854 in England and therefore has quite a bit of
tradition behind it. Letterboxing also offers puzzles at levels many of us
may not even be able to grasp. Finally, a good part of the letterboxing
community is comprised of artists who take great pride in their work, be it
clues, stamps, web pages, what have you.
Also, why would someone interested in letterboxing need to go to a
geocaching website??

Randy wrote:
>I would work with the letterboxing webmasters on this one.

I too have invited Jeremy to do this.

Randy wrote:
>I would point out that you are violating the copyrights of the clue writers
>by what you appear to be doing (well you're violating my copyright
>anyway :-))

This really concerns me. How can you justify copying copyrighted
information to your website, deciding what information to delete from said
copyrighted pages, then put your own copyright on those pages? Am I missing
something here?
Following is a portion of the text found on the front page at
Note: The contents of this website are copyrighted, and are not to be
duplicated without the specific permission of the various individual
authors. You are welcome to print the clues for your own personal
letterboxing purposes for free and without special permission. However,
republication or reproduction of this material in a book, website, or any
other resource is strictly prohibited.

Jeremy wrote:
>As for banner advertising, I'll never even hope to recoop the costs of
>working on this project, but if I can at least pay for bandwidth with any
>kind of revenue I get - it is preferable than asking for money. This is a
>pet project (and hobby). Hobbies don't make any money. I also won't plague
>the site with advertising - I'll only use those companies that I find
>provide a service to the group - and will make it complementary to the site.

As has been mentioned on this list before, we've had the discussion about
money and ads over the years. We really don't want to there again. The
hobby has been ad-free for almost 150 years and we are working very hard at
keeping it that way. We've decided, as a group, that we'd rather ask for
money than have an individual profit from the hobby. We've found that
people are rather forthcoming with cash, particularly if minimal
contributions can keep a site ad-free. Perhaps this is a discussion we
should have on this list too.
How would you decide which companies provide a service to the group? Seems
like a rather unilateral decision-making process. Are others on this list
comfortable with that? Of particular concern to the letterboxing community
right now, is the fact that the company you provide advertising for is a
direct competitor to a company that has been instrumental in the development
of letterboxing in the US.
I guess my biggest beef here, is that one individual, to the best of my
knowledge not an active letterboxer, stand to profit financially from the
work of others.
I've just received Alan's note on dot com, ads and linking to others' pages,
and I concur with him.

Pierre wrote:
>Please keep geocaching as it was born: simple, natural, passionate, not
>commercial,... Trying to make money out of it will kill it!

I agree.
Randy wrote:

>I personally think it could be useful technology, but I think you should
>work with the LbNA folks on it (or at least the owners of >the copy) before
>just republishing stuff and pulling down revenue.

And Jeremy wrote:
>My ultimate goal is to increase awareness of both games - letterboxing and
>GPS stashing.

Despite all that precedes, I do believe we can find a way to accomplish
these goals. I do feel strongly though that it will need to:
1. Be ad-free,
2. Respect the copyright of the clue publisher, and
3. Be achieved through open and fair communication between all partied
Ultimately, I feel that the work and skills Jeremy brings to the table can
be beneficial to both communities, but perhaps they do not make sense under
the umbrella. I look forward to a healthy debate on these
I apologize to this list for the length of this post, and its apparent
letterboxing bias. I believe the issues I raised are very much relevant to
what we on this list do as well.
Best Regards,
From: "Jeremy Irish"
Date: Wed Jan 31, 2001 11:32 am
Subject: Leaving this list

Apparently my emails are now being moderated by the list owner. For this
reason I will no longer be responding to emails on this mailing list.

The new official mailing list is now located on the site. Send an email to list-request@g... with
"subscribe" (no quotes) in the body of the message. The mailing list will be
ad free.

Regarding waypoints, we will not be providing a list at this time. Any
distribution of the waypoint list is in direct violation of copyright and
will adversely affect the game. I'd be happy to discuss it further on the
new mailing list.


Jeremy Irish

Quinn Lawsuit;act=ST;f=3;t=71
Posted: July 06 2002,3:38 pm

What mud? Oh, just the usual "Dave Ulmer is a god on Earth but Jeremy is a
bad man for trying to make a few bucks while I buy my Navicache shirt like
a raging hypocrite" mud.

Okay, lets clear this up a tad... It was you that mentioned "make sure it's
the right mud"!

I sell shirts on the website to cover the very small cost of server space
that the site requires. Not once have I ever said other wise. By the way
you act like I have five people packing these shirts as if millions are
going out the door daily. If a shirt sells, fine! but to be honest they
only sell once in a while and it's no big deal to me either way.

Now, lets get to the "right" mud. Not sure who you are or what your
intentions are in posting here (which is all fine and dandy) But just try
to go into Jeremy's forum and type the word "Navicache" and see what
happens, it gets censored. 3/4 of actual facts about who created
Geocaching and the true story behind it have all been censored and deleted
from those very forums. The only time you see something left in is if by
chance it seems to make him look good in the public eye.

For the better part of a year and a half I have heard nothing but how he
wants to only help the sport and keep it from falling into the hands of
other wanting to turn it commercial, well take a better look because thats
exactly what that site is and nothing more. People have very positive
opinions of him and they are entitled to feel that way, I on the other hand
have extremely negative feelings based on facts that I myself have
encountered (most of them directly from him to me)

This fellow watched the sport become created, then quickly ran out and
app'd for copy right as if he were the one that came up with the idea.
Heck...he even told the reporters he "coined" the term.

When Navicache was first placed on the net I was contacted by Jeremy
telling me that if I did not remove the word "Geocaching" from my website
that I would face a lawsuit, and I was not the only one that was threatened
with this as Buxleys Maps were also contacted in this fashion.

So if you are trying to compare my single shirts to "charter memberships,
Travel bugs, shirts, hats, bags, pads, stickers, are really
reaching here bud!

Last July I did a national News story that was placed on ABC with Peter
Jennings that ran for over 7 on air minutes. I mentioned the sport and all
the pro's behind it for the family life. I mentioned (I'd be
a fool not to) and I also mentioned and Buxleys maps
repeatedly as well. The crew was here for about 6-7 hours doing the story,
but when it hit the tube much of what I had said ended up on the editing
room floor including all the nice things I said about

So here I was doing the sport as well as ALL the sites a favor by plugging
them on national TV, but not once was any site address mentioned and was left out completely. Now when Jeremy caught word of this
the first thing he said in his own forums was that I was only thinking of
myself and how rude it was of me that I left out any mention of him or his
site (remember the editing room floor)

But in any case, just how many times has he mentioned Navicache in those
countless stories he has done? Zippo!

Now remember, you want me to respect your opinions, then I ask you respect
mine and I just laid them out on the floor for you to see. It is my opinion
that site could care less about the land we use for the sport as long as it
continues to pump money into the pockets of those involved. Making money is
all well and good, and there is nothing wrong with it by any means, but
don't lie to me and tell me that "it's not about the money" and that "I am
not making any profit" or "I am only doing this for the good of the sport",
when you and I both know better.

In this forum you can say the word "geocaching" or even link to another
site, try that there with the word "Navicache"

Let me know if you want a list of people that were banned from the use of
that site because they simply said they liked Navicache too.

You ever wonder what keeps that site from going completely "Pay to play"?
the answer is right in front of your face at this very moment.

I won't go as far as placing all of his e-mails to me here for the public
to see, but I can assure you that my opinions about this matter were well
thought out and do not come without fact.

By the way...I honestly welcome you to the forums here and I can assure you
it's very hard to tell what one's intentions are merely from text on a
screen. I sincerely hope you find something within these pages that make
you return I am also sure you will find that many people (most) are very
kind hearted and wish to do nothing more than help others here. So please
do not let my comments backlash into having you think this was in any way
about you, I just happen to have been there when this all came about so I
think I know a bit more (could be wrong though it wouldn't be the first

And my opinions on Dave U? I like the fellow and respect his ideas. He
voiced his thoughts and stood by them and was called names for doing so.
And YES! quite a bit of what he said was removed so many people do not know
the complete story.

Edited by Quinn on July 06 2002,4:52 pm

"I Cache...Therefore I am!"
Quinn Stone

Buxley Lawsuit
From: "Jeremy Irish"
To: "Ed Hall"
Subject: RE: Scrambled geocache pages?
Date: Sat, 26 May 2001 12:07:33 -0700

Apparently you do not respect my requests to remove the lost caches page or
to add my copyright information on your maps and pages.

Please understand there is no sort of compromise. You either remove the lost
caches page and add the copyright information or you do not. I think I fully
explained the reasons why both of these need to occur. If you do not remove
the link and any files relating to the lost caches from your site by the end
of today, I will be forced to take legal action. I'll give you until Monday
to add the copyright information to your web pages as well.

I want to make this clear. Since you are using MY copyrighted data you are
required to do what I say regarding these issues, or remove everything from
your site that contains my collection of data. Content theft is a crime.

This is not meant as a personal attack. I have to respond this way to anyone
who doesn't comply with my requests to make changes that impact the tone of
the game. There are many reasons why I have to protect my copyright, and
many reasons why lost caches need to be removed from your site.


Posts: 1094
From: Bellevue, WA, USA
Registered: Oct 2000
posted 02 June 2001 07:41 AM

I, Jeremy Irish, CEO of Grounded, Inc. will never make this a pay to play
web site for Geocaching. It is in the best interest of all players that the
game remain free and the non-commercial sharing of these coordinates
through the web site.

Not that I'm planning for anything, but in the case that there was some
sort of gambling cache (who knows, weirder stuff has happened), I suppose
that would be in essence a "pay to play" cache. But the traditional game
will remain purely free.

How's that?


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