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Geocache causes bomb scare in Ottawa

July 26, 2008 @ 11:36 By: gordon Category: Current affairs, Geocaching

Thursday’s Metro Ottawa included a story that opened with the following:

A suspicious package attached to a pole forced the closure of Riverside Drive and a section of Ottawa’s bus Transitway for several hours yesterday.

That description made me think "I wonder if it was a geocache", so I popped over to the OttawaGeocaching.com forums to see if anyone had posted about it and sure enough, it looks like Dead End Cache (GC1DT9M), now archived, was destroyed by the bomb disposal robot.  At least it was "not deemed hazardous".

GC1DT9M_cropped Pictures of the geocache from some of the logs show that it was a flat metal container with a green "official geocache" sticker on it.  In other words, another opaque geocache container on a bridge reported to the police as "suspicious".

While the hiding spot probably wasn’t the best choice (on a bridge over the Transitway), this incident probably could have been avoided if the container had been transparent.  Chances are that the person who reported it to the police wouldn’t have been concerned about it if it was a Lock ‘n’ Lock full of trinkets they could see into, and even if they did report it to the police, the police would very quickly have been able to determine there was nothing dangerous in it without having to open it.  Instead, the police ended up closing a section of the Transitway, and parts of Riverside and the overpass it was on for several hours, and paramedics, firefighters, the bomb squad and the Hazardous Materials Unit were tied up while it was being investigated.

So, let’s start using more transparent containers.  And, let’s stop placing geocaches in locations where people looking for it could be mistaken as doing something nefarious.

14 Responses to “Geocache causes bomb scare in Ottawa”


  1. Ken says:

    Geocaching needs to be banned now, to prevent further chaos within the city limits. This just goes to show how careless and uncaring Geocachers are.

    hehehehehehe

    KIDDING! 😉

  2. Squid says:

    Geocaching is going to GET banned if people can’t start thinking with their heads instead of their arses.

    I’m not even going to start with the container… Applying my security-guy point of view:

    1. If it was hidden on a bridge it is ASKING for trouble. You don’t hide packages on bridges. Even before the 9/11 crap, it was a stupid idea to leave unattended packages on bridges. That just screams out “bomb”. Ditto for dams, power stations, outside police and fire stations, and any other kind of public structure that might seem to be an appropriate target for a miscreant with explosives. Common sense here…

    2. It was on a transitway bridge, therefore it was on private property in violation of the geocaching guidelines. It shouldn’t have been approved in the first place. More to the point, the basic rule of “don’t hide on private property” applies in spades to the Transitway, so it probably shouldn’t have been hidden in the first place.

    3. I absolutely concur about the transparent container thing.

  3. Squid says:

    And this time they didn’t blame it on me, like the last two. That will at least keep me from ranting out a geocache forum.

  4. Mad@Cachers says:

    This game should be banned from all cities Geocachers learn to be sneaky, prowl, and generally suspicious. Many even search in the night with spot lamps. These Geocaches are hidden everywhere, completely without any consideration or permission. These containers are hidden on infrastructure (Utility, bridges, buildings, and much, much more), in tender natural areas, everywhere people are. Some are very dangerously placed; I would be surprised if many weren’t killed while participating. None of these Geocaches should be hidden anywhere. My brother, who lives by a park in Halifax, NS, has said that Geocachers have trampled flowerbeds, wetlands and more in order to locate their prize. These areas get destroyed in the process, what a shame!

    To make matters far worse is that we people have to share the roadway with Geocachers, YES, I said Geocachers. These individuals park anywhere without any signals, hop out and run into the woods without even looking for local traffic. When they return they run across to their car and floor it seeking their next fix. Mean while these Geocachers are not even paying attention to the traffic driving around them while they are driving, for their eyes are focused on the GPS in their hand, or on their dash. A friend of my brother in Halifax was T-Boned by a big SUV driven by a group of geocachers in a rush while on their mission.

    This has got to be stopped!

  5. Jay says:

    Let’s just stop placing caches in stupid areas, PERIOD. The Transitway is private property and I agree that this cache should never have been published in the first place. I’m getting tired of “urban stealth caches” where the entire point is to play spy-vs-spy and try to get to the cache amongst hordes of pedestrians. It’s not funny and it’s not fun!

  6. Insp Gadget says:

    I guess with all new things, some people are hesitant to embrace it and enjoy Geocaching. I have been Geocaching since 2001 and think it’s the best game on earth. Mind you, there are ALWAYS some people who refuse to follow the guidelines and seem to spoil it for everyone else.

    Mad@Cachers, I understand your frustration, however I can absolutely assure you that not all cachers act in this manner you have described. I know many of them and they are respectful of property, careful and generally very nice people.

    Jay, I don’t live in a big city, but I agree that caches should not be placed in “stupid areas”. This cache in Ottawa was obviously approved, so it did somehow meet the guidelines. That being said, however, the person who approved it only has a map to look at. With over 600,000 caches around the world, it would be impossible for a reviewer to physically check on each one before approving it.

    Mad@Cachers, I respect what you have posted. I would love to have the opportunity to show you the game, perhaps to get the other side if you will. Drop me a line anytime at inspgadget@gmail.com and maybe we can arrange a quick demonstration…….

  7. Rhialto says:

    Transparent container while may be an option would not help if you ask me. When you see something suspect from a distance and the idea of a bomb is what you have in mind then you won’t get close to it to see if it’s really a bomb. I remember a movie scene where they used a transparent container.

    This will have to stop showing in the news or the next bomb guy will have the idea to buy an official geocaching sticker and place it on the bomb container.

    There is no real solution here… the most simplist container could be a bomb as so the next container you will look at could also be.

  8. The Draak says:

    It is sad that a fellow geocacher decided to choose such a location for a cache container. Perhaps a clear container may have helped, but more importantly is that the choice of location was the ‘Achilles Heel’. My whole family has been searching for geocaches for about a year now (I personally have found over 600 of them across the United States) and there have been times where we felt that some locations are a very bad choice. We have seen them located in the parking lot of a hospital, at the playground area of an elementary school and even at a police call box next to a bank.

    Restraint is the issue here. Even though the geocaching ‘gods’ may have whispered in your ear that a certain location, "Just needed to have a geocache placed here", prudence must be the better part of the fun. Sure, it can be fun to play ‘James Bond’, looking for caches under the casual eye of John Q. Public, but the location (and the container) must be carefully chosen.

    I don’t blame the reviewer for approving the location, it is more the responsibility of the geocacher to make sure that the location is carefully chosen so the added traffic to the geocache doesn’t have a negative impact on the area. This would also include the nuisance of geocachers searching for the container in a spot that might be considered as suspicious activity. I have had to move one of my containers because a house was being built right across the street from a tree I had hidden it in about a year before. It was a nice, quiet spot in a corner of a park, but once it became apparent that the new owners of the house might become suspicious over so much human interest in a single tree, we moved it.

    The geocaching hobby is actually a great way to get out and get some exercise, meet nature-minded people and to keep your mind sharp and focused. A good thing when you reach your seventies. For us, it has been a multi-facted activity that does have it’s ups and downs, but for the most part, has been quite beneficial to the community. This is true because we geocachers also exercise a concept called: Cache In, Trash Out (CITO). This is where we pick up trash and other detritus as we walk through the woods, stalking our ‘prey’. Last Wednesday, I even participated in a CITO event after work, where we scrubbed a local park to remove old tires, 3 car batteries, scrap metal and 19 bags of trash. This was because one of our fellow geocachers went looking for a cache in the park and discovered that the park really could use some help, so she organized a CITO event. The event was attended by about 20 cachers, some that came from 20+ Km away to be there.

    So yes, there are some aspects to geocaching that might cause individuals to take issue, but geocachers as a whole, are a self-policing lot and we do try to do what is right as we go about our business of "using billion-dollar satellites to find Tupperware in the woods".

  9. Misha says:

    There is one simple solution place only the following cache types: Earthcache (an earth science based virtual, has no container), micro (35mm film can, pill bottle) and nano caches (much smaller). Save the larger hides for rural locations.

    Also we must be far more careful of the sites where we hide geocaches. Stay away from bridges, schools, universities, playgrounds, utility infrastructure, congested areas, densely built up areas, places like bus & other transportation stops station etc. and places with sensitive flora & fauna.

  10. gordon says:

    @Misha: Microcaches and nanocaches can still cause the police to be called, either because someone sees the container and still thinks it’s suspicious or because of the suspicious behaviour of the people looking for it. And, bomb squads have been known to blow up micros (and the small trees they were attached to).

    There are definitely locations in the urban environment that should not have geocaches hidden in them, just as there are locations in the rural environment that shouldn’t either. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t use a small, regular or even large size container for an urban cache. As long as you use common sense, in choosing the location, you should be fine. And if you use a transparent container, something I’ve been advocating in my blog for a while now and that the police have said they would prefer be used, you should be ok.

  11. 7rxc says:

    It would not hurt if someone informed the local police forces on how to access the cache search lists at http://www.geocaching.com etc. when needed.
    A quick search on the coordinates of a ??? might resolve the problem more positively from their point of view. They will still deal with a target in a manner deemed suitable by them… but at least they might consider a known cache a little more gently. That said, I agree that some moron will eventually misuse a cache for their own purposes of evil. I don’t even want to hunt purely urban sites… other than things like Earthcaches.

    Fortunately rural is what we have most of around here.

  12. gordon says:

    That’s not a bad idea, but it can get “lost” when there are staffing changes. After the most recent incident in Ottawa, there were discussions of identifying some local geocachers the police could call in future incidents.

    Ultimately, the onus is on the geocache owner to ensure they aren’t placing a container in an inappropriate location or a container that could be easily confused for a bomb.

  13. 7rxc says:

    That’s one reason why technical squads have Resource Books. I’m willing to bet there are more than one Geocacher involved already at some level of policing… Not to mention HAMS and SAR volunteers I can think of.

    When you think of it… I’ve only just started caching and it took about 10 seconds of hunting to realize that
    RDF and Avalanche Beacon hunting grids work great.
    Nice to meet you.

  14. chich says:

    We (believe it or not) live in one of the safest societies the world has known. Sadly, the powers that be have us tied in such knots that we fear our own shadow.

    Best place to keep a populace; looking over its shoulder and under the stairs for bogeymen instead of at what is happening.



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