Full Steam Ahead

In the first of a three-part series on steampunk geocachers, It’s Not About The Numbers makes the acquaintance of a young British trail-blazer.

Geocachers know her as electroGIRLak, an 18-year-old civil engineering student from Lincoln in Britain’s East Midlands. To steampunk fans, she’s Ava Lovett, the illegitimate child of a brothel owner and a singer now working in the science field.

But it’s when Ashleigh-ellan Kavanagh’s hobbies collide that she really starts raising Victorian and modern-day eyebrows. Few bystanders can avert their gaze as she geocaches in Victorian garb, though Kavanagh says it’s  not a regular occurence due to the restrictive nature of frilly, layered skirts.

When she does venture out in character, it’s usually in “big sturdy boots and a good solid hat” to denote that she’s “feeling like more of an adventurer”.

And those arched eyebrows are more likely to belong to complete strangers, than other geocachers, who seem to enjoy learning about her steampunk self as much as hearing of her latest find.

“I am stopped frequently, not just by geocachers, to answer various questions like ‘Why are you wearing goggles?’ and ‘Why are you wondering around this field in a bustle skirt with a GPS?’

“People also occasionally think that one is linked to the other, like you have to dress funny to geocache. Reactions are generally positive though, and often encouraged.

“Once, geocaching in costume locally, a little girl wanted to know why there were two Victorian folk trying to climb over that wall. Her daddy just laughed and asked us all about it; it was lovely.”

This has been Kavanagh’s life for “just over a year, officially”. “I had always been interested in the ideals and history of the Victorian era but was unaware that there was, in fact, an entire community based on such things. It was nice to finally have a word to describe my interests.”

Her esteemed moniker was “plucked out of mid-air” and despite not having a steampunk persona as such, Kavanagh has dabbled with the back-story of being a scientist born out of wedlock to a brothel owner and a singer.

“Some of this is based on fact, but I’m not revealing which parts,” she says.

When ask to explain the genre, Kavanagh admits steampunk “differs greatly from person to person”.

“I would broadly define it as an interest in re-imagining Victorian ideals, technology and fashions, then applying them to modern-day situations and life. There are so many different definitions of steampunk; I doubt there will ever be a definative one.”

She took up geocaching nearly two years ago, after a “friend discovered it online one evening and said there were some nearby”. “We spent a good portion of our summer scrabbling through undergrowth and digging about under rocks, hunting down series of caches.”

Her gadget of choice on the geo-trail is a mobile phone “and occasionally, the geocaching app” – though she’s also partial to “just using a good ol’ map and compass”.

Both past-times reconcile nicely, considering the fascination of steampunk fans for co-opting modern inventions back into their alternative Victorian reality. However, it’s a common misconception that the community despises technology.

“There is nothing wrong with the use of technology,” Kavanagh says. “We are not scared of or hate technology, in fact some of us obsess over it.

“The only downside to both steampunk and geocaching is those who don’t understand it and don’t care to be informed about either. Hecklers in cities are the worst.”

Still there’s always a strong cuppa or glass of gin to soothe rattled nerves, as well as the backing of fellow steampunks, who “are very supportive of each others’ pursuits”.

Kavanagh, who belongs to the Lincoln Steampunk Society and Brass Goggles website, says she has even met the occasional geo-steampunk on the latter’s forums – “there is an entire thread about it :D ”.

“And you can purchase Steampunk geocoins, Steampunk GPS systems, the lot.”

She herself owns “one very special” Antique Bronze Steampunk Geocoin – released last year by the Geocoin Club – which she has “yet to put out into the world”.

When she’s not studying for her Civil Engineering and Built Environment course at North Lindsey College or exploring her surrounds (with or without Victorian attire), the British lass keeps busy with her other hobbies – “taxidermy, cooking, writing and artistic pursuits”.

*In Part 2, It’s Not About The Numbers will formally introduce Sir Ernest Roebuck III (GC handle: Augur) and his current mission as surveyor-general of the Antipodean islands of New Zealand to seek out temporal anomalies for the British Home Office.

1 comment

  1. Sir Ernest Roebuck III, KCB, FRS, FRGS

    I loved the first article in this series. It is great to know that there are other Steampunk Geocachers out there. I’ve started a new group on The Steampunk Empire called Temporal Anomaly Hunters which further describes my particular take on Steampunk Geocaching, and provides a place for listing steampunk trackables and steampunk caches.

    Oh, BTW, my handle on the Geocaching.com website is actually AugurNZ, sorry for the confusion.

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