Czechs launch first geocaches into the stratosphere

Photo: archive of Žádná věda

This past weekend, a group of Czech scientist and enthusiasts took the popular geocaching hobby – where people look for hidden containers with the help of GPS devices – to new heights, launching caches with GPS trackers into the stratosphere. A carrier gondola, attached to a stratospheric balloon, released the Stratocaches, also called maple pods because of their shape, from 30,000 meters above ground, dispersing them at random. The pods were meant to transmit their GPS locations upon landing back on earth, for geocachers to locate them.

Photo: archive of Žádná věda
Radio Prague had a chance to speak to Ivan Sobička, one of the creators of the first ever Stratocaching project, and asked him about how the project and the No Rocket Science (Žádná věda) association were born.

“It all started in a pub, as is usual in the Czech Republic. We met with some friends and talked about the idea of launching a standard stratospheric balloon with a camera, so we could take some picture of near space. But this is quite a common hobby already, so then we started thinking of other ideas – what if we drop something from the balloon, what if there were some flying modules that could be dropped from the balloon and someone would try to find them. So, that’s how the idea of combining geocaching and stratospheric balloon came about. And this was about one year ago.”

And what kinds of people are involved in this project?

“So at first there were only five of us, and then we started contacting other people, because we needed their help. For example, the amateur radio community, which is quite strong here in the Czech Republic. They helped us with the radio connection. And the second community, of course, were the geocachers. We have about 60,000 active geocachers in the Czech Republic. We are quite a superpower in this kind of activity.

Photo: archive of Žádná věda
“And then we asked some other institutions for help, like the Czech Hydro-meteorological institute, or technical universities, the aerospace research and testing institute. And we were very surprised, because we didn’t expect them to help us, but it seems that everyone has this kind of playful spirit. So they really helped us in their free time, and gave us their expertise so that we could go on with the project.”

So on Saturday was the launch of the gondola and it released the pods. How many of the pods-caches have been found so far?

“Unfortunately all the seeds, all the starto-caches got frozen, so we didn’t get the GPS signal from them, so we could give directions to people. So they were all found accidentally, just by the geocachers who were searching around in the area. So far, we have found six of them. Two of them were found by local people, because they fell into the backyards of private homes. So the people called us on the number that was on the maple pod. But four of them were found by the enthusiasts, the players.”

Are you planning on repeating this, keeping in mind the slight problems that happened this time?

Photo: archive of Žádná věda
“Of course, we would like to, because everything else went really smoothly. We were really excited, because, for example, we managed to organize a live video stream from the stratosphere and many others things worked really great. And on Saturday there were about 13,000 geocachers, or as we call them stratocaching, registered for the game. Of course, not all of them went out to hunt for the stratocaches, but we know that there are many people interested in a new stratocaching launch. So, we would like to do it once again and to make it better for next time.”

You can find out more about the Stratocaching project on the No Rocket Science Association’s site: or in this article in English: