2008-08-31 53 -113
The geohash falls a few metres off what looks like the access road to some kind of utility, at the back of Edmonton International Airport. It lies within the Google Maps grey shaded area, but it's not clear from satellite images whether the airport perimeter fence encloses this area.
Robyn had a ticket on an international flight out of this airport on the very date the geohash, at 9 a.m. Too bad neither being a commercial pilot nor passing through airport security gives me access to the the whole airport.
Because I had to drive by the airport the day before, I did a drive by to see if the point was accessible, and thus worth a six am geohashing expedition on the correct date, before my flight. The Edmonton airport is still far enough out of town that it's in a rural area, and the gravel road behind the airport looked like any other range road, with wheat fields on either side. Notable however was that while the wheat fields on the right were not fenced (wheat doesn't have a tendency to escape, so why bother building fences?) the ones on the left had a fence. It wasn't a particularly good fence. In many places it was falling down and I saw one gate open, but it was fenced, and at intervals along the fence were the bilingual Restricted Area signs typical of airports. Rats. And I thought Alberta was rat-free.
When I reached the point on the road abeam the geohash I pulled over next to the fence to look. There was a building there, and a little car, and a faded blue sign that told me that my mysterious utility station was a Nav Canada weather station. The things that look like a tank farm or something in the satellite shot are the sensor array. I lined up the camera to photograph what I could see through the fence and a gentleman came up to ask "can I help you?" in his best "what are you doing?" voice.
"I'm playing a game," I started. "I have to find coordinates." I wave the GPS and the Google Maps printout authoritatively. "And mine, it appears, are 0.04 nautical miles through that fence. But I see that it's a restricted area, so unless you're allowed to escort me in, the game, for me, is over." I look disappointed but resigned.
He says he can't let me in without an airport security pass. I don't have one for this airport. I have my pilot's licence, and explain that the airports I normally work at have a secure and an unsecured area on airside and I only need into the unsecured area. We chat a bit more. About weather stations and the sorts of airplanes I fly, and the company I fly for, and the importance of good, accurate weather information to a commercial pilot.
"How far did you say it was inside the fence?" he asks. A part inside of me grins wildly and does the little pulled fist victory dance. But I don't close for the kill. I think I could have done it, and I am sure I could have persuaded him to take my camera and go and photograph the geohash for me, (a feat I will call geohash by proxy), but I didn't. It wasn't the right day anyway, so why waste it on a geohash that wouldn't even have counted. I'm not going to go back and try the same thing on whoever is there at six am.
I write up my story because it was interesting, and so those elusive Edmonton area geohashers know that they can't stroll in and claim the geohash without either having a YEG restricted area pass, or being at least as cool as me.