Sixteen years ago, Geocaching HQ and the Geological Society of America teamed up to create an entirely unique cache type. Since the first EarthCache was published in Australia back in 2004, nearly 650,000 geocachers have experienced an EarthCache and there are well over 7 million find logs for the EarthCache type on Geocaching.com. Those are some astronomical numbers!
We had the chance to chat with Matt Dawson, the Education Programs Manager at The Geological Society of America and learn about his connection with geocaching and how geology adds a beautiful new layer to our game. As someone who oversees education and outreach programs, he had a lot to share.
Image by Bäne79 (GC25643).
HQ: What inspired you to make geology your career?
Matt: My first hiking and camping experiences were through my introductory geology field trips throughout California. I was amazed that our professor could tell if a valley had been sculpted by a river or by a glacier just by its shape. It seemed like magic.
HQ: What gets you excited about EarthCaches?
Matt: I love the fact that it is a participatory, hands-on way of learning. To really understand geology, you have to get out there and see it for yourself, and EarthCaches help you do just that. I get excited by the fact that thousands of people, who may or may not have training in geology, have taken the time to learn about a site and create an EarthCache for others to experience. I’m immensely appreciative of the hardworking, international team of volunteer “Geoawares” who review each EarthCache and work with the cache owner to publish a cache that provides finders with a positive learning experience.
HQ:What is your favorite geological feature and what is so cool about it?
Matt: Easy – Columnar basalt! Followed by pillow lava. Both are very distinctive in appearance and tell an interesting story about the past environments into which lava erupted. Columnar basalt can be found in many different parts of the world–they have even been observed on Mars!–but some of my favorite examples are along the southern coast of Iceland:
- Kirkjugólf – https://www.geocaching.com/geocache/GC1W8DD
- Erosion has scraped the columns down to ground level, forming what resembles a “church floor”.
- Dverghamrar – https://www.geocaching.com/geocache/GC4M7VG
- Differentiated cooling results in columns of different shapes and orientations
HQ: Why should geocachers visit an EarthCache if they have never done one before?
Matt: Visiting an EarthCache will help you see your world, and geocaching, in a whole different way. Wherever you live, there are probably some EarthCaches nearby. If you can find a geocache, you can find an EarthCache. Earth science is often not emphasized in schools, so for many people, finding an EarthCache may be their first experience with the subject.
Image by BriGuyNY (GC2VZ0T).
Without this stunning and endlessly fascinating planet, Geocaching couldn’t continue. The gadgets we use for geocaching contain metals and minerals that are obtained through geologic exploration. As we begin to celebrate International EarthCache Day, we can remember to take care of our home by learning about its history and listening to the wisdom that Matt gave us: Anywhere you live, or want to live, there is geology to find.
Thank you, Matt, for teaching us more about our Earth. We are sure that you get this quite a lot, but we wanted to say that YOU ROCK!
Image by Talblick7 (GC4M7VG).
EarthCaches are available for all geocachers October 10-11 through the Geocaching app in celebration of International EarthCache day, so be sure to find one near you to get a souvenir!