Letterboxing is said to have originated in England in 1854 with a calling card in a bottle at Cranmoor Pool. But it was the April, 1998 article in Smithsonian magazine that popularized it outside of the UK.
A typical letterboxing adventure begins with accessing the clues as to where the letterbox lies. In the olden days (pre-1998) this came about due to clues left in boxes, personal communications, etc. But today the Internet is the source of most of the clues.
Letterboxing clues may include puzzles which must be solved, compass coordinates, directions and paces to be followed.
The letterboxing enthusiast takes these clues, along with their personal stamp, personal log, a compass and appropriate hiking/walking gear and heads off.
What they find at their destination is a waterproof container filled with a special stamp and a log book. The letterboxer then stamps their personal log with the letterbox stamp, and uses their personal stamp in the log inside the letterbox container. Mission accomplished! On to the next quarry!
A similar sport, geocaching, makes use of GPS units and coordinates to find their own treasure in waterproof containers. The difference is that the purpose of letterboxing is to "find a stamp, leave a stamp," whereas for geocaching a small object is placed in the cache, and the finder takes it and leaves an object of their own for the next finder.
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