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Find a location on Google maps using coordinates: Typically people use Google maps by entering addresses. You can also enter coordinates. If you were trying to geocache without a GPS, for example, you could enter the coordinates given — and thereby locate the hide on a map before you even leave home. This works well in an urban setting with many landmarks — not so well out in the wild unless you’re very good at orienteering — in which case you should print both the satellite and the terrain views.

Let’s demo an example: GC1Y8D0 is one of my caches called “An American Hero” where the coordinates are given as N 40° 53.040 W 073° 25.158. Copy-paste that into maps.google.com and you’ll immediate know where to look for the cache. Not as much fun as approaching the hide with a GPS; certainly more efficient!

Getting the coordinates to a particular location: Enter an address into maps.google.com and using the grabbing hand pan your location to dead centre of the map’s rectangle.

Then copy-paste the javascript code given below into your browser’s location/URL field and hit enter. Then bookmark the code by some memorable name so you can conveniently apply it again — ideally putting it on your bookmark bar.

A dialogue box will pop up with your location’s coordinates which you can copy paste from — to wherever you need it: (40.75610790270799, -73.98998022079468) in my example. That’s N 40.75610790270799, because 40 is a positive number, therefore North of the Equator at 0 degrees latitude, and W 73.98998022079468, because 73 is a negative number, West of Greenwich at 0 degrees longitude. Just remember that a negative longitude is West and a negative latitude is South.

If you paste (40.75610790270799, -73.98998022079468), parenthesis and all, back into maps.google.com the green arrow will pinpoint that location precisely.

You can convert from decimal degrees to degrees in minutes and seconds using a coordinate converter/calculator such as www.earthpoint.us. Using our example coordinates of 40.75610790270799, -73.98998022079468, without the parenthesis this time, conversions are …

  • Degrees Lat Long 40.7561079°, -073.9899802°
  • Degrees Minutes 40°45.36647′, -073°59.39881′
  • Degrees Minutes Seconds 40°45’21.9884″, -073°59’23.9287″

Here’s that line of javascript code mentioned earlier …
    javascript:void(prompt(”,gApplication.getMap().getCenter()));
… I wish I could credit the person and website I took this from but I have long forgotten, sorry. It’s genius.

Why would you want to do this? You may need the coordinates of a location or a destination to enter into a GPS or share with somebody else. You may want to hide a geocache but not have a GPS or you may want to cross-check your handheld GPS readings against Google maps.

Google Maps vs Google Earth: Google maps runs in your browser. Google Earth is a similar, but much better, version of maps running as an application. Much of what I’ve written, except for using that line of javascript code mentioned earlier, will work in Google Earth. In Google Earth you need only drop a pin on a point of interest and get info on it to get back the coordinates.

Useful links: The browser based Google maps at maps.google.com | The application based Google Earth can be downloaded from earth.google.com | Convert Coordinates – Calculate a position in a variety of formats at www.earthpoint.us | The orienteering.org website | Geocaching

Here’s something I will be experimenting with and, no doubt, be writing more about: GMapToGPX a browser bookmarklet to convert Google maps direction data into GPX which you can download to some GPSs. This means you can create custom route plans in Google maps — and have printouts that match the route your GPS will take you on.

This blog post tries to answers questions like “How to geocache without a GPS?”, “How to find a cache using Google maps?”, “How to hide a cache without a GPS?”, “Using Google maps in place of a GPS for geocaching?” and “How to cross check your GPS coordinates?” and “How to calibrate your GPS?”.

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