Friday, March 04, 2016

SES Geo-Art Puzzles

I’ve been toying with the idea of hiding a geocaching powertrail for some time now. Initially I’d brushed the idea off as just another one of my hair brain caching projects, but the more I thought about the idea of hiding a large number of caches the greater my enthusiasm became. Each time I thought about the powertrail I’d come up with a new twist to what my powertrail would be like. One idea I had was to make some Geo-Art with my geocaches, however each positive thought was met with the roadblock of “where in the Illawarra” could I hide a powertrail of caches.

After way too much deliberation I decided to make a geo-art powertrail using mystery geocaches, that way the artwork could be offsite from the actual hides…. Brilliant I thought, but how could I come up with 30 mystery caches and what would my geo-art look like? I soon had the idea to combine my two passions of geocaching with SES and thus my artwork was born. The internet opened up my thinking to a wealth of different puzzle caches and I soon had the concept to hide 30 unique SES puzzle geocaches.

When creating and deciphering puzzle caches I’ve found there are so many different options but most of them can be grouped into the following categories
  • Hidden information – Often the information we seek is right there in front of us. Text can be in plain sight or in the form a hyperlink, some caches use varying font sizes, colours or typefaces to provide information about the cache. Another good place to hide coordinate information is in the source code of the cache listing. Other less common places to find information are the cache title, cache attributes, cache logs, travel bugs, geocoins or the hider’s profile.
  • Lists – This is common type of puzzle, most cache coordinates will be made up of 15 numbers so if a list contains 15 items it is very likely that each item can be associated with a single digit.  Sometimes a list can be pictures instead of words. Nearly every list requires you to find a particular pattern.
  • Codes and Ciphers – This is where it gets a little harder. A code can be like Morse code, Binary, Braille or even foreign languages while ciphers can range in difficulty from cryptograms to much more sophisticated ciphers that use keys. Many ciphers utilise symbols or letters as a way of substituting or transposition of the real coordinates. Often a frequency analysis can be used to recognise letter patterns.
  • Images – To coin a phrase “a picture tells a thousand words” and this is so true, whether its counting the number of pictures on the cache page or counting items within a picture. Reversing an image or taking away coloured layers can reveal coordinates. Changing the pixels within a picture or animated gifs have been used in the past. Painting with numbers can expose coordinates in an image or the use of stenography.   
  • Word, Maths and Logic puzzles – This is a common form of puzzle with word puzzles being very popular. The puzzle can often take the form of anagrams, acronyms, crosswords, rhymes or word sudoku’s. The use of maths in a puzzle can take many forms, whether its finding the area of a shape, sequencing of numbers, finding constants or the use of base numbers. Finally, the use of logic statements, nonograms or hidatos can be used to reveal the coordinates, often the hider asks a number of multiple choice questions which can be placed into crosshatch grids and/or tables to find the coordinates.
In getting my series of SES puzzle caches published I’ve learned a lot about puzzles and the use of Google earth for my artwork. I hope the finders of my caches enjoy them as much as I have in placing them.

Thanks for undertaking the challenge
The Rats

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