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How Do Coordinates Translate Into Feet?

Andy and Robin

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Well, for latitude, it’s fairly simple. 1 degree equals… what is it, 70 miles? So 70 miles times 5280 feet per mile equals 369,600 feet. Divide this number by 60, and you have 6160 feet per minute of latidude, and divide again by 60 to get about 103 feet (approximately) for every second of latitude.


Longitude is much trickier. The distance between degrees of longitude depends on where on the globe you are located. The number of feet in each second of longitude is largest at the equator and gets smaller as you move towards the poles.


I hope this helps, and I hope I did all of the math right!

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I just did a little detective work and found by looking at your profile page that you most likely live near San Francisco. At 38 degrees latitude (not latiDude, as in my first post), 1 degree of longitude equals about 55 miles. Doing the math, 1 minute of longitude equals 4840 feet and 1 second of longitude equals about 81 feet.


So, to sum it all up (you’ll be quizzed later), as you travel North or South, there are about 100 feet between seconds of latitude and as you travel East or West, there are about 80 feet between seconds of longitude.


Oh, by the way, if you are using the tenths/hundredths/thousandths of a minute format instead of seconds (for geocaching, you probably are), each thousandth of a minute of latitude equals about 6.16 feet and each thousandth of a minute of longitude equals about 4.84 feet. (You probably could have figured that out on your own, though!)


I’m going to take a nap, now. ;)

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To determine the longitudinal distance at any latitude multiply the one nautical miles/degree with the cosine of the latitude.


Try this with the extreme northernmost and southernmost latitudes of your local geocaching area and you will see there is not a lot of change. If you geocache while traveling long distances then there may be a large difference, but not if you are in your home area. So just memorize the values for your local area.

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The practical way:


Go outside

Let the GPS settle

"mark" a wpt where you're standing

"mark" another wpt and edit it by 1 degree(or 2,or 3,for more accuracy)

set the edited wpt as a "goto"

the GPS will tell you just how far away it is


You may want to do it twice(once for n/s,once for e/w)

Edited by fivegallon
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