Ellen Campbell got hooked on Geocaching last January, and this June she introduced Shoalers to Geocaching and Star Island to Geocachers. Geocaching is treasure hunting via GPS devices and is based on a website: Anyone can play and there is no fee to sign up for the list of hidden caches. The treasures are small items that fit into containers that are in turn tucked into crevices, nooks in stone walls, hollow logs. The hunters sign log books at the site of the actual cache and record them as well on the web site, where others can read about their experience.

Ellen tucked away four caches on Star Island, and the morning after she posted their coordinates on the website, two people stepped off the Thomas Laighton in pursuit of the Star Island caches. Ellen also introduced a group of Shoalers attending the Natural History Conference to Geocaching and they quickly caught on and found the four caches.

There are over 1.1 million Geocachers world-wide who will see that Star Island has four hidden caches waiting for them. As of this writing (September 15), about 20 Geocachers have made the trip to Star Island and recorded their notes on the website.


By Ellen Campbell

I first heard of geocaching more than a year ago, and when a co-worker suggested we try it together last January, I was immediately hooked. Geocaching is treasure hunting via gps, where you find a website ( listed “hide”, and try to find it. Once found, you sign a log, swap some “swag” if desired, and log your find on the website.

Cache containers can be anything from an “ammo can” (metal waterproof military containers for bullets of varying sizes) to “nano” tubes, so tiny they’re hard to find. Containers are limited only by the creativity of their owners: holes drilled in rocks, hollowed out logs, birdhouses, electrical conduits, pine cones, etc. Each container will hold at least a log for signing that you’ve found it, and those that are large enough may contain small items for swapping (“swag”) or “trackables” to be moved from cache to cache. A new cache may contain a small prize for the “first-to-find”, and some cachers are very competitive in racking up their numbers of firsts. If a finder takes any swag, they are obligated to replace it with something of equal or greater value. It keeps the game going.

Trackables are items with a coded number or dog tag (called a travel bug, or TB) that once retrieved from a cache are expected to be logged on the website and then placed into another cache for traveling or moving along. The owner of the TB and anyone who moves it along enjoys watching its travels on the website.

Geocaching draws participants outdoors for hikes and trips to places of interest and beauty that they never would have discovered otherwise. There are over 1.1 million active caches all over the world, and it’s only been in existence for 10 years. It’s an activity for individuals or families, and is a great learning experience in mapping, geography, environment, etc. My 9-year-old granddaughter and I have great fun together, and recently discovered a night cache, found with a flashlight by following reflective “fire tacks” that mark the trail to the goal.

I know that Star Island needs new people to find and enjoy what we already know about the island. It occurred to me that maybe a few caches on Star would lure some new people out there to discover the beauty and the programs offered. In the spring, I emailed Joe Watts to (1) ask if he’d ever heard of geocaching, and (2) to see if it might be possible to place some caches there. He responded with enthusiasm, checked with committees/boards, and gave me the “thumbs up”. He assigned Andy the IT guy as my on-island coordinator, and we were off and running with the plan. When I arrived on island the Friday before the NHC conference, I worked with Andy to get four of them placed according to the official rules and guidelines of geocaching, sent the actual coordinates off to the New Hampshire geocaching publisher (each state has one), and they were posted on the website. The next morning I received an email from a cacher in NH, all excited that there were finally some caches on Star Island. They were coming out on the Thomas Laighton that day! I met them as they got off the boat, we had a great conversation, and then they were off to find them. They are not difficult hides, because if one undertakes the effort and expense to get all the way out to the island, they don’t want to go away without having found them. We loaded them with small toys, some coins, and of course, some Star Island promotional materials and Blue Books. Andy has a box of goodies to replenish the caches as necessary for this season.

You can find the four caches on the geocaching website in a number of ways: by zip code, name of town, by coordinates, or by the GC code if known, etc.

The GC codes and names of our hides:

  • GC2A3AG Oceanic (ammo can), visited 23 times
  • GC2A3AM Tucke Monument (ammo can), visited 22 times
  • GC2AEGN Art Barn (a novelty container), visited 22 times
  • GC2A3BE Smuttynose (ammo can), visited 24 times (this one had a Blackbeard Pirate TB3EMVK in it, which was recently retrieved from the cache, and I’m watching for it to be dropped into another cache). There are currently two trackables in this cache.

On Friday of the NHC conference, I held a small “Introduction to Geocaching” class which was attended by about 10 people. We then proceeded to find the caches, and they all seemed to enjoy it. Several were excited enough that they were going to go right home and start searching for caches in their neighborhoods.

Andy will take up all four of these caches to store for the winter, and I’ll deactivate them at Then we’ll put them out again in late spring, supplied with new stuff, and list them as available again.