Updated Geocaching Coordinate Calculator

Open the Popup Coordinate Distance Calculator

In Geocaching there is a type of cache called a “Multi”, or “Multi-Cache”. It requires the user to locate an initial cache that provides directions to the next cache, which when found provides directions to another cache, and so-on until the final cache is found. My initial thoughts to these type of caches were that they are like the old fictional pirate treasure maps.

I’m sure you’ll recognize the following excerpt from a popular 80’s movie:

Mikey pulls out the doubloon and verifies another critical alignment.

Mikey: Guys...I think I have a match. I'm sure of it! The lighthouse, the rock, and the restaurant all fit the doubloon. That must mean that the rich stuff is near the restaurant. So, (pulls the map out of his shirt), wait a second, Mouth, I'm going to need you to translate the map because I don't understand Spanish. (Pointing) Right here.

Mouth: (Looking at the map) Alright, alright, alright. (Reading) (spanish)

Mikey: What does that mean?

Mouth: Ten times ten.

Mikey: Uh, hundred.

Data: Hundred.

Mouth: (Translating) ...stretching feet to nearest northern point.

Mikey: North. What's north? Which way is north?

Mouth: That's where you'll find the treat.

Mikey: The treat...the rich stuff! The treat! The rich stuff. That's it!

Data: (Checks his compass and points) North is that way.

Now you can fulfill your childhood fantasies of joining Mikey’s gang in search for magical pirate treasure right from the convenience of this page.

I first attempted to create this calculator five years ago. My understanding of spherical coordinates was very limited – it still is – but I cracked open some websites and learned quite a bit. The trigonometry I did so well in during my time in High School was rusty, but I remembered enough that it was helpful.

It turns out this calculator was already placed up on NASA’s website a couple of years ago, though I’m not sure what algorithm they use. When doing research on that, I came across one of Wolfram Research’s pages on Spherical Trigonometry. Ah! Good head-spinning stuff… pun intended.

Sometimes it’s not a multi-cache, but a puzzle cache which would call for a calculator like this. Examples include the No Latitude and A-Rock-No-Phobia puzzle caches.

Here’s what to enter:

  • Distance (Feet) = the distance from the center point in feet. If you’re interested in metric entry and results, post a comment.
  • Heading (Compass Degrees) = the heading in compass degrees. 0 degrees is due North, 90 degrees is due East, 180 degrees is due South, and 270 degrees is due West.
  • Latitude of Origin = coordinates in the format “N XX° YYY.ZZZZ'” where N denotes North/South from a drop-down, XX is the degrees and YYY.ZZZZ is the decimal minutes. This is the common form that Geocaching.com provides for coordinates.
  • Longitude of Origin = the same as the Latitude, only for Longitude. It should now be able to handle W or E hemispheres to handle our friends on the other side of the meridian.

The Calculations are for nerds. The Results are for you. The coordinate results should display a link to Google maps when you’ve entered in all the criteria.

Update: 2017-06-15, I corrected the algorithm. Instead of using the angular distance, it uses a formula based on Haversine distance equation.

Open the Popup Coordinate Distance Calculator

Have fun and post a comment to let me know if it’s useful.

Geocaching Coordinate Distance Calculator

So I’ve come across more than one puzzle cache that goes something like this: you are given a coordinate. The description then tells you to go X feet from the coordinate heading y degrees. How do you calculate the new coordinates?

Examples:
No Latitude
A-Rock-No-Phobia

Well, you perform some trigonometry to identify the longitudinal and latitudinal distances then perform some algebra to convert those distances into coordinates. Something new that I learned is that the distance between each longitudinal degree is different than the distance between each latitudinal degree. Hence you have to use different divisors for each to determine the coordinates.

The calculator still needs to handle situations where the distance hops over a longitudinal or latitudinal degree, but for most puzzles of this type the calculator will work fine. The calculator even handles jumps over degrees, so adding thousands of feet shouldn’t trip it from providing the correct coordinates.

Here’s what to enter:

  • Distance (Feet) = the distance from the center point in feet. If you’re interested in metric entry and results, post a comment.
  • Heading (Compass Degrees) = the heading in compass degrees. 0 degrees is due North, 90 degrees is due East, 180 degrees is due South, and 270 degrees is due West.
  • Latitude of Origin “N” = coordinates in the format “N XX° YYY.ZZZZ'” where XX is the degrees and YYY.ZZZZ is the decimal minutes. This is the common form that Geocaching.com provides for coordinates.
  • Longitude of Origin “W” = the same as the Latitude, only for Longitude. Because it’s frozen as “W”, this calculator will only work for the western hemisphere. Let me know if you’re in the Eastern (or Southern) hemisphere and would like me to update the calculator to accommodate you.

The Calculations are for nerds. The Results are for you. The coordinate results should display a link to Google maps when you’ve entered in all the criteria.

Update: 2017-06-15, I corrected the algorithm. Instead of using the angular distance, it uses a formula based on Haversine distance equation.

Open the Popup Coordinate Distance Calculator

Have fun and post a comment to let me know if it’s useful.

Two photos and something learned

Last week I had the honor to join with my company headquarters in D.C. for business and pleasure. They usually give me one free day to wander around the Nation’s Capitol. During this trip, I ventured into the Arlington National Cemetery.

I had expected a few things about the cemetery, all which were disproved while there. First, it’s not just soldiers that are buried there. Wives, infants and civilians are there, too. Some famous but there are plenty obscure and unknown. Second, as you move closer to the present there are fewer tombstones marked “unknown”.

I had expected there to be no “unknown” tombstones and just one “Tomb of the Unknown Soldier” monument. Instead I found many tombstones marked “unknown soldier” – a whole field of them – and two tombs of unknown soldiers. One is the more famous with paths marked to get there. It’s huge with a single, large, uncomfortable marble chair on a stage facing rows of marble pews below. The other is a tomb marking the remains of 2111 unknown Civil War soldiers.

There are no unknown tombs in the Viet Nam plots and only a few in the Korean or World War II plots. World War I has more and Civil War has an entire field of unknown soldiers that were given little more than a number to their name. I suppose there was an absence of dog-tags then. But thought it was worth asking into. The woman at the center desk in the visitors center shed some light into this.

She said that at one time there were a few unknown soldiers in the Viet Nam plots, but that they had since been identified through DNA tests. All soldiers that die this point forward will not be unknown because of that biological technology. If I heard correctly, there are rare cases where bodies are exhumed for this purpose, which is how the last unknowns in the Viet Nam plot were identified.

It’s macabre, but comforting that we are able to identify the dead, but really – what is our identity? It’s certainly more than a chisel mark on a tombstone or a series of amino acids along a protein chain. Our souls are here on earth for a purpose, and like a green leaf on a tree or a single line of code, we’re here to play a small part in something much bigger than any one of us. And though we get lost in the billions of others that have come before us, live around us, and will come after us we are each significant… even if we’re “unknown”.