ATH 2020

ATH 2020 and the Coronavirus pandemic

NHS Hands Face Space Logo

We find ourselves in strange and difficult times with the Covid pandemic still having a serious impact worldwide on people's lives and health.

Please read the following notes, which are NOT clues to the hunt but which provide important information.

At the time of writing (22 November 2020), we are still in the midst of a second lockdown in England. Whilst there is uncertainty as to what the exact rules will be during the Armchair Treasure Hunt season during December and January, it seems almost certain that wide-ranging restrictions will be in place to some degree or other. Please read the guidance notes below which cover

1. Coronavirus Guidelines

The Armchair Treasure Hunt will take place as usual this year. Whilst the "armchair" aspects of the Hunt perhaps provide an ideal form of amusement during a socially-restricted lockdown, there are some aspects of the ATH that will definitely be affected by the pandemic, most notably face-to-face meetings by teams and travelling to the treasure site.

We will physically bury the treasure this year as usual, but appreciate that the traditional 'Virtual Finds' claimed by teams unable to travel to the burial site will play a far bigger part than in most years. In the worst case, where for example the current lockdown is extended throughout the Hunt season, this year's ATH outcome may become entirely based on virtual finds, with nobody able to travel to the treasure site to physically recover a ticket. There are some further notes below on virtual finds.

First and foremost, please adhere to the ongoing UK Coronavirus Guidelines and any national or local restrictions that apply to you throughout the Hunt. Please stay safe, and do not put yourselves or others at any additional health risk. The current National lockdown restrictions are due to continue until at least 2 December. In relation to the ATH, the current guidance includes the following relevant recommendations:

  1. Stay at home except for essential journeys and specific reasons.
  2. Generally do not meet socially or undertake any activities with other people.
  3. You may take exercise or meet outdoors only with people in your household or support bubble, or with one other person.
  4. Always follow social distancing rules and wear a mask where required.
  5. Avoid any unnecessary travel. To spend time or to exercise outdoors should be done locally wherever possible.
  6. For the avoidance of doubt, alas visiting the treasure site is NOT deemed to be essential travel!

If the rules change significantly before or during the Hunt season, we will endeavour to update this page accordingly. But please always refer to the Official Guidelines for the latest and definitive guidance.

2. Video-Calling & Discussion Board Apps

Many entrants have formed teams, and commuication and meeting up are usually an important part of collective attempts to solve the Hunt. This year it is likely that face-to-face meetings with other team members outside your household/bubble will not be possible. Many teams already employ tools such as message boards or wikis to share ideas and answers, and may already use online video calling apps where team members are geographically dispersed.

The pandemic has certainly accelerated the range and quality of apps available. Tools such as Zoom, MS Teams, WhatsApp, Skype, Google Duo/Meet/Hangouts and Facetime are well established, and most have some level of free-use version albeit with possible restrictions on number of users or time. Other free apps are available such as Jitsi, and there are currently plenty of lists and reviews of different video-calling apps available online. See for example, this list at Which or this Verge list of alternatives to Zoom.

If your ATH team does not already use a Discussion / Bulletin Board or Wiki for communicating ideas, thoughts and answers, this year may be the year to start. Again there are a number of free options out there. This list highlights some of the main ones, including PhpBB, MyBB and Simple Machines Forum (SMF). Our team, the Apopheniacs, has used SMF for many years and it has met our needs as a geographically dispersed team. Note though that these Boards typically require web-hosting and a database, and will require a little time and effort to set up. If you are going to set this up for your ATH team, it may be an idea to do so in advance of the Hunt and test it out.

3. Virtual Treasure Finds

ATH virtual treasure finds have been in operation for many years now, in particular as the geographical spread of entrants has widened. A 'Virtual Find' can be claimed by an entrant who for good reason is unable to travel to the treasure site. Previously this has been available typically for those teams from other countries for whom a physical visit to the site is not possible. But this year, with Covid restrictions likely to remain in place on non-local travel, 'Virtual Finds' may be the only option for many more teams. In the worst-case where lockdown restrictions are extended to travel throughout the Hunt season, ATH2020 may become an entirely virtual Hunt.

To claim a Virtual Treasure Find, an entrant must submit details by email identifying the precise treasure location and providing all the relevant solved clues that have enabled this exact location to be identified. Experienced Hunters will know that even armed with most of the solved clues, a physical visit to the general treasure site does not always locate the treasure for a variety of reasons! So virtual claims must be backed up with full details of the solved clues that have enabled an entrant to exactly locate the treasure without visiting the site to reclaim a ticket. Claims based on guesswork, without supporting evidence, or those which only identify the general area will not be deemed eligible for a virtual find.

Some practical details:

  1. A Virtual Find Claim should be submitted by the Team Captain in an email sent to Apopheniacs Anonymous with a subject line "ATH2020 Virtual Find Claim - <Team Name>"
  2. The published ATH deadline will apply to virtual finds just as to physical finds or solution submissions. Virtual Find Claims received after the deadline will be ineligible.
  3. Please enclose exact details of where you believe the precise treasure burial location is, and details of all the clues solved that have enabled you to identify that location.
  4. The setters will endeavour to quickly confirm receipt of Virtual Find Claims, but will give no indication as to the correctness or eligibility of a submitted virtual claim.
  5. An entrant may submit more than one Virtual Find Claim, if for example a subsequent solve changes their identification of the treasure location significantly.
  6. Where a team submits more than one Virtual Find Claim, only the last such claim received before the deadline will be considered by the Setters and assessed.
  7. Virtual Claim Finds will only be considered where an ATH Solution is also separately submitted by the entrant with a corresponding team name before the published deadline.
  8. The order of correct Virtual Finds will be based on the receipt time of the email containing the claim assessed.
  9. Any team deemed to be abusing the facility of Virtual Find Claims (e.g. submitting an excessive number of guessed treasure locations with no supporting evidence) may have all Virtual Find Claims excluded.
  10. The Setters' decision on all Virtual Find Claims is final!

4. ATH Prize-Giving Ceremony

Any ATH2020 prize-giving event will be deferred until such time as it is safe to hold, or will be replaced by an online event if required. The ATH2020 prize-giving will be combined with the deferred ATH2019 prize-giving.