100 Years of Shipping [Video]

By Jason Fitzpatrick on April 20th, 2012

This data visualization shows sea-based global shipping routes from the 18th and 19th centuries. It’s a fascinating look at the way the world was connected in a pre-aviation age.

Ben Schmidt, the creator of the visualization, writes:

I saw some historians talking on Twitter about a very nice data visualization of shipping routes in the 18th and 19th centuries on Spatial Analysis. (Which is a great blog–looking through their archives, I think I’ve seen every previous post linked from somewhere else before).

They make a basically static visualization. I wanted to see the ships in motion. Plus, Dael Norwood made some guesses about the increasing prominence of Pacific trade in the period that I would like to see confirmed. That got me interested with the ship data that they use, which consists of detailed logbooks that have been digitized for climatological purposes. On the more technical side, I have been fiddling a bit lately with ffmpeg and ggplot (two completely unrelated systems, despite what the names imply) to make animated visualizations, and wanted to put one up. And it’s an interesting case; historical data was digitized for climatological purposes, which means visualization is going to be on of the easiest ways to think about whether it might be usable for historical demonstration or analysis, as well.

From that, he created two visualizations. The first, seen above, is a long form visualization that shows each individual route over time. The second one is much shorter, and compacts all the years over each other, showing a frenzied meta-year of shipping. Hit up the link below to check out the second visualization and read more about his methodology and some of the neat trends you can see in the visualization if you know where to look.

Visualizing Ocean Shipping [via O’Reilly Radar]

Jason Fitzpatrick is a warranty-voiding DIYer who spends his days cracking opening cases and wrestling with code so you don't have to. If it can be modded, optimized, repurposed, or torn apart for fun he's interested (and probably already at the workbench taking it apart). You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 04/20/12
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