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Yet another pipe bomb scare caused by a geocache

March 17, 2009 @ 12:33 By: gordon Category: Geocaching, Seen on the 'net

It seems that some geocachers still haven’t figured out that wrapping a piece of PVC pipe in duct tape and hiding it in a public place isn’t a good idea. Fox affiliate WLUK-TV reported on Sunday that a “suspicious device” found in a tree in a park in Allouez, Wisconsin Sunday morning was reported to the police. As a result, the bomb squad was called out and the container was blown up.

One of the firemen who also responded happened to be a geocacher and he was “99% sure that it was a geocache“. He went on to say that though he was pretty sure it was a geocache he wasn’t “going to gamble on it with the one percent”.

The response from the geocaching community has been mixed. Most seem to agree that an unlabelled container, particularly one that looks like a pipe bomb, is a prime candidate to be blown up by the bomb squad. Some people are encouraging the owner of the exploded cache to replace it. One cacher decided to blame the people living in the neighbourhood with this gem of a log entry:

I realize nobody will ever see this note, but I need to vent. To the residents of Irwin and Kalb Streets: This cache had been here for almost two years – in fact, there was another cache in this park before this one. Why did you choose March 15, 2009 to report suspicious behavior at this cache site after so long? Was Wise River Rambler [the last geocacher to find it before the bomb squad –G] really any more suspicious than me or any other finder on this cache? This cache has been found at all various times on weekends, evenings, and other various times that you’re home and watching across the street at the park. Why not yesterday, or the day before, or when tkks was actually placing the cache? You had plenty of opportunity to call the police and tell them that there were GeoCachers there. Seriously folks. . .

It doesn’t matter how long the cache was there or how many people found it. It was placed without permission, was not labelled and looked suspicious. The onus is on the hider to ensure that a geocache is placed in an appropriate location. If geocachers continue to ignore this we’re going to start seeing more laws banning geocaching altogether.

At least the fireman got to log a find with the following log entry:

Hey, I guess I can log this as a find. It should now be a multi because it’s in a million pieces. Ya’ll wouldn’t believe the time, energy & money involved to find it.

2 Responses to “Yet another pipe bomb scare caused by a geocache”


  1. seldomeen says:

    The issue here is that it didn’t look like a pipe bomb. It was the size of a matchstick container, was plastic and was suspended inside a tree hole by a piece of string. Making the leap to a “suspicious device”, especially by a member of the Fire Dept. who’s seem many like it before, is the leap that is a little hard to swallow and in his own words, the decision was made to blow it up before he even got there. It had nothing to do with his certainty.

    Perhaps the police who first arrived didn’t know what to make of it and decided to get a professional opinion. However, the bomb squad, if they have any training whatsoever, should have ruled out a “pipe bomb” the minute they saw it.

    Many caches are to small to contain a legible label. Does that mean they should all be subject to this kind of over-reaction? Those of us on the inside know why this cache was blow up. To save face, to justify a 750,000 bomb squad expenditure, to make it look like the fire and police depts were on top of their game keeping us safe, and to generate a nice little story on a slow news day to sell advertizing.

    • gordon says:

      Having talked to the officer in charge for an incident that happened in Ottawa last summer, I learned that once something is designated as being “suspicious” it’s pretty much going to get blown up. The geocaching community in Ottawa set up lines of communication with the police in an attempt to reduce similar incidents in the future, though cache containers might still get blown up. Basically, some of the experienced cachers in Ottawa have provided the police their contact info so that they can be called in the event of a probable geocache incident, but ultimately the decision lies with the police.

      According to the WLUK-TV story, the fire chief who responded along with the police and bomb squad did say he was 99% sure it was a geocache. But 99% is not 100% and it isn’t reasonable to ask a bomb squad member to throw the dice.

      Without being “on the inside”, it sounds like this incident may have been triggered by the geocachers’ actions looking “suspicious” to someone in the neighbourhood. They probably checked it out and saw the container hanging inside the tree. A film can or similar container wrapped in duct tape can look suspicious to people who aren’t geocachers. You can’t really fault whoever called the police because they were reporting something that seemed suspicious to them. The police would rather have something reported as suspicious turn out to be harmless than something that seemed harmless and wasn’t reported to the them turn out to be a bomb.

      The geocache probably wouldn’t have been exploded if it had been transparent so they could have seen the contents without opening it.

      Oh, and with the exception of those annoying nano containers the size of a couple of watch batteries, geocaches can have some sort of identifying mark on the outside, even if it’s just the GC number.



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