A GNOME stuffed down a pipe had police camped out in the bushes waiting for an illegal drug pickup yesterday morning - only to discover it was all part of a hobby that is taking off in Gladstone.
Two men were seen concealing a suspicious object in bushland around Lake Callemondah on Thursday morning, before jumping back into their car and driving off.
A witness, who was out for a morning walk, said it looked like suspicious behaviour.
"I think it's good just to call it in (to police) these days," the witness said.
Police officers arrived on the scene and parked their cars out of sight, waiting for the Criminal Investigation Branch to arrive.
They were camped out and ready to pursue anyone who arrived at the scene.
But when the CIB officers moved in to inspect the item, they discovered it was a gnome and a container with 23 empty film canisters - one of 458 sites in Gladstone tied to geocaching.
Geocaching is an outdoor recreational activity relying on satellite technology to find hidden objects.
Geocachers use a hand-held GPS device, about the size of a mobile phone, to find their quarry.
They find clues to the objects online.
Police sergeant Peter Stone said he didn't mind going out in the heat of the day to investigate what the witness had thought was something quite suspicious.
"It was all fine and that's what we're here for," he said.
"It's something we had to take seriously at first, but I understand it's all good fun. It's a game and a bit of fun so there's no harm done."
The Observer managed to track down and talk to the owner of the gnome, geocacher David Nielsen.
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He said this was the first time his "cache" - ironically named "Geez, I must be dopey" - had been accidentally discovered.
"I hope he didn't cause any trouble. It's just a game," Mr Nielsen said.
"It's part of the game to be stealthy when you're looking for the cache so people don't think something suspicious is going on.
"They clearly weren't stealthy enough this morning."
Mr Nielsen has been geocaching for eight years and has found 3258 caches all around Australia.
"It's a great way to travel and see things you wouldn't ordinarily see," he said.
"My wife and I are going to Stanthorpe on Wednesday for the Queensland Geocaching Mega Event.
"There will be people from the US and New Zealand coming here just for it."
The event runs from April 2-6.
Visit www.geocaching.com for more details.
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