Category Archives: Map

DataViz as Maps: Maps that Shaped the World (BBC News)

Bursting with information and often incredibly beautiful – maps do more than just showing you where you are, or where you might be going. Here we tell the stories behind some fascinating examples.

The recently published Times History of the World in Maps features documents from ancient civilizations, through the medieval period, to some of the key events of the 20th Century.

Historian Philip Parker helped compile the accompanying text.

Maps that shaped the world

This fine example of Christian cartography below is the Mappa Mundi at Hereford Cathedral.

A treasure of the medieval world, it records how 13th Century scholars interpreted the world in spiritual as well as geographical terms.

Mappa Mundi

The world depicted is centered on Jerusalem.

The single sheet of vellum features about 500 drawings – including cities and towns, events, plants and animals, plus strange mythical beasts.

Mappa Mundi

The next image shows the first time that the name ‘America’ was used on a map as a term for the New World.

Waldseemuller World Map

Named after Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci, the continent features on a section of modern day South America, from the 1507 Waldseemuller World Map, which originated from Germany.

Waldseemuller World Map

The Battle of Gettysburg, in 1863, is widely considered the turning point of the US Civil War.

Battle of Gettysburg

This map shows how Confederate and Union forces squared up against each other around the Pennsylvanian town.

Battle of Gettysburg

The map was drawn relatively soon after the battle by a Union Army supporter – a northerner.

That’s why Confederate forces on it are termed ‘rebels’.

Battle of Gettysburg

The shaded topography, showing ridges in the landscape, was included to help the public envisage how the battle played out.

Battle of Gettysburg

George Bradshaw’s popular railway timetable guides, which were revised and republished long after his death, are what he is best known for.

But he was also a cartographer – and his map from 1852 reveals a dense network of railways lines spreading out across much of the UK.

Bradshaw railway map, 1852

Considering that passenger rail services were a relatively recent phenomenon, the explosion of branch and main lines – over a period of about 20 years – is remarkable.

Bradshaw railway map, 1852

The densest parts of the network are where industrialization was happening fastest.

Central Scotland, the north of England from Liverpool to Hull, and the Midlands.

There were fewer trains in southwest England and south Wales.

Bradshaw railway map, 1852
Bradshaw railway map, 1852
Bradshaw railway map, 1852

The close up city maps reveal just how much industrialization and urbanization was still to happen in the 19th Century.

Bradshaw railway map, 1852

Industrialisation was also a driving force for railway development in other countries.

This Gaylord Watson railroad map of the United States dates from the early 1870s.

US railways 1871

From the northeastern seaboard, the rails have spread west – stretching to areas which hadn’t been part of the USA for that long.

US railways 1871
US railways 1871

The black ink hand-written annotation is what makes this relatively ordinary map of Cuba special.

Map from Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962

President John F Kennedy was shown the map at a CIA briefing in 1962 – and it was he who marked where the Soviets had started to construct nuclear missile launch sites.

Map from Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962

The map is a testament to the Cuban Missile Crisis – playing a physical role in the tension and drama, which saw the world brought to the brink of nuclear war.

Map from Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962

The colored shapes on this map from 1973 show the South African government’s black homelands consolidation proposals.

South Africa Homelands map, 1973

Under the apartheid regime, the homelands – or Bantustans – were designed to be separate political entities.

Black inhabitants of these areas were deprived of their South African citizenship.

South Africa Homelands map, 1973

These mini states – never internationally recognized – were spread out, deliberately fragmented.

Click here to listen to the video in Mr. Kerley’s article to hear more about other historically significant maps.

DataViz as Maps: World Population Cartogram

India Grows, Canada Disappears: Mapping Countries By Population


Can you find Australia and Canada? The cartogram, made by Reddit user TeaDranks, scales each country’s geographic area by its population. (Click through to see the high-resolution map.) TeaDranks/via Imgur

World maps distort — it’s inherent in their design.

Take a spherical object (the Earth) and try to represent it on a flat plane (paper), and some parts of the sphere are going to get stretched. On most maps, Canada and Russia get puffed up, while countries along the equator get shrunk.

Every now and then, though, you stumble across a map that enlightens.

A look back in time: This cartogram resizes each country by its population in 2005.

A look back in time: This cartogram resizes each country by its population in 2005. Paul Breding

That’s how we felt when we saw the awesome map made by Reddit user TeaDranks. The map resizes countries based on their population. It’s simple: Each square represents 500,000 people.

TeaDranks posted the graphic on Reddit’s “map porn” discussion on Jan. 16. He calls it his “magnum opus.”

“Wikipedia was my source,” TeaDranks wrote. “I was inspired by this map which is now ten years old. My map’s scale is twice as large as the old one’s.”

The older version of the graphic was made in 2005 by the cartographer Paul Breding. You can buy a copy of that map on Amazon.

In the case of TeaDranks’ cartogram, the attribute is population. A quick look at it, and a few ideas pop out.

  • India has almost caught up with China as being the most populous country in the world.
  • Nigeria quickly has become Africa’s population hub, with more than twice as many people as any other country on the continent.
  • Cities like Delhi, India, and Shanghai, China, have more people than some European countries.
  • The U.S. makes up less than 5 percent of the world’s population.

The website Worldmapper has hundreds of cartograms, showing countries sized by everything from the number of books published or tractors working to condom use by men or woman.

“One neat thing about this one [TeaDranks’ cartogram] is that unlike with some cartograms, the basic shapes of the countries are very recognizable,” Vox’s Matthew Yglesias points out.


Source: Michaeleen Doucleff, India Grows, Canada Disappears: Mapping Countries By Population,, January 28, 2015,




DataViz as Maps: Movies Turned into Magical Maps


The most memorable movies take you on an emotional journey. Artist Anthony Petrie has grabbed onto that idea and made it literal with his pop culture maps. He takes films like Jaws, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and Indiana Jones and translates some of the iconic imagery into detailed and artistic cartography. Amity Island from Jaws turns into a shark-shaped mass of land, Isla Nublar from Jurassic Park becomes a dinosaur, etc.

Petrie’s work will be on display at Gallery 1988 West in LA until January 24th.

Here are a few more examples of his work. Click on the images to enlarge.

AnthonyPetrie_FeatureShot-969x545 pop-culture-map-1 pop-culture-map-2 pop-culture-map-4

Source: Amy Ratcliffe, Movies Turned Into Magical Maps, Nerd Approved, January 13, 2015,

DataViz as Maps: With Huge Search Area Mapped, MH370 Hunt Resuming

© AP Photo/The Australian Transport Safety Bureau

In this map provided on Sept. 24, 2014, by The Australian Transport Safety Bureau, details are presented in the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in the southern Indian Ocean. After a four-month hiatus, the hunt for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 is expected to resume Sunday, Oct. 5, 2014, in a desolate stretch of the Indian Ocean, with searchers lowering new equipment deep beneath the waves in a bid to finally solve one of the world’s most perplexing aviation mysteries.


KRISTEN GELINEAU, Associated Press

SYDNEY — After a four-month hiatus, the hunt for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 is about to resume in a desolate stretch of the Indian Ocean, with searchers lowering new equipment deep beneath the waves in a bid to finally solve one of the world’s most perplexing aviation mysteries.

The GO Phoenix, the first of three ships that will spend up to a year hunting for the wreckage far off Australia’s west coast, is expected to arrive in the search zone Sunday, though weather could delay its progress. Crews will use sonar, video cameras and jet fuel sensors to scour the water for any trace of the Boeing 777, which disappeared March 8 during a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board.

The search has been on hold for months so crews could map the seabed in the search zone, about 1,800 kilometers (1,100 miles) west of Australia. The 60,000-square kilometer (23,000-square mile) search area lies along what is known as the “seventh arc” — a stretch of ocean where investigators believe the aircraft ran out of fuel and crashed, based largely on an analysis of transmissions between the plane and a satellite.

Given that the hunt has already been peppered with false alarms — from underwater signals wrongly thought to be from the plane’s black boxes to possible debris fields that turned out to be trash — officials are keen to temper expectations.

“We’re cautiously optimistic; cautious because of all the technical and other challenges we’ve got, but optimistic because we’re confident in the analysis,” said Martin Dolan, chief commissioner of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, the agency leading the search. “But it’s just a very big area that we’re looking at.”

That area was largely unknown to scientists before the mapping process began in May. Two ships have been surveying the seabed using on-board multibeam sonar devices, similar to a fish-finder. The equipment sends out a series of signals that determine the shape and hardness of the terrain below, allowing officials to create three-dimensional maps of the seabed.

Those maps are considered crucial to the search effort because the seafloor is riddled with deep crevasses, mountains and volcanoes, which could prove disastrous to the pricey, delicate search equipment that will be towed just 100 meters (330 feet) above the seabed. Two of the search ships will be using underwater search vessels worth around $1.5 million each.

“You can imagine if you’re towing a device close to the seafloor, you want to know if you’re about to run into a mountain,” said Stuart Minchin, chief of the environmental geoscience division at Geoscience Australia, which has been analyzing the mapping data.

The terrain isn’t the only challenge. The area is prone to brutal weather, and is so remote that it takes vessels up to six days to get there from Australia. Water depths are also tricky: They range from 600 meters (2,000 feet) to 6.5 kilometers (4 miles). That’s about the deepest the sonar equipment can go, Dolan said.

“In all sorts of ways we’re operating towards the limits of the technology that is available,” Dolan said.

With the mapping nearly complete, the GO Phoenix, provided by Malaysia’s government, will begin hunting in an area considered the likeliest crash site, based on an analysis of satellite data gleaned from the plane’s jet engine transmitter and a series of unanswered phone calls officials on the ground made to the plane.

The other two vessels, the Equator and Discovery, provided by Dutch contractor Fugro, are expected to join the hunt later this month.

Malaysia and Australia are each contributing around $60 million to fund the search.

The ships will use towfish, underwater vessels equipped with sonar that create images of the ocean floor. The towfish, which transmit data in real time, are dragged slowly through the water by thick cables up to 10 kilometers (6 miles) long. If something of interest is spotted on the sonar, the towfish will be hauled up and fitted with a video camera, then lowered back down.

The towfish are also equipped with sensors that can detect the presence of jet fuel, although that would likely be a longshot.

David Gallo, who helped lead the search for Air France Flight 447 after it crashed in the Atlantic Ocean in 2009, said that even if the fuel tanks had survived the impact, strong currents in the search area probably would have dispersed any leaking fuel by now. Still, he said, it’s worth a try.

“In some of the steep rugged areas any kind of additional information would be useful to help peer into the dark shadows,” Gallo, an oceanographer with the U.S.-based Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, said in an e-mail.

There will be between 25 and 35 people on each ship, and crews will likely work around the clock. The ships can stay at the search site for up to 30 days before they must head back to shore to refuel and resupply.

“The most efficient way is to keep going,” Dolan said. “But you have to be careful with the well-being of your crews, to be sure you’re not pushing them too hard.”

The work will be painstaking. The ships can move no faster than 11 kph (7 mph) while towing the sonar equipment. If a vessel needs to change direction, the crew must first pull the towfish up enough that it won’t fall to the seafloor during the turn — a process that takes hours.

“None of this happens very quickly,” Dolan said.

Irene Burrows, whose son Rodney Burrows was on board Flight 370 with his wife, Mary, believes the plane will be found. Not knowing her son’s fate has made moving forward a near impossibility.

“We’re in limbo,” she said. “It will be good to know where it is — I think that’s what is important to all the family.”

Search officials are acutely aware of the sentiment.

“We’re doing this primarily because there are families of 239 people who deserve an answer,” Dolan said. “We will give it every possible effort and we think our efforts will be really good — but there’s no guarantee of success.”

Steve Heller, Alberto Cairo, and The World in Terms of General Motors

World in Terms of GM Cutout


The other day on Twitter, Albert Cairo tweeted about a great visual map he found in a 1938 issue of Fortune Magazine at Steve Heller’s Moving Sale on Saturday, June 28th, 2014 in New York City.

Alberto Cairo GM Tweet

Daily Heller Moving Sale

Steve Heller

Steve HellerSteven Heller wears many hats (in addition to the New York Yankees): For 33 years he was an art director at the New York Times, originally on the OpEd Page and for almost 30 of those years with the New York Times Book Review. Currently, he is co-chair of the MFA Designer as Author Department, Special Consultant to the President of SVA for New Programs, and writes the Visuals column for the New York Times Book Review.

He is the co-founder and co-chair (with Lita Talarico) of the MFA Designer as Author program at the School of Visual Arts, New York, where he lectures on the history of graphic design. Prior to this, he lectured for 14 years on the history of illustration in the MFA Illustration as Visual Essay program at the School of Visual arts. He also was director for ten years of SVA’s Modernism & Eclecticism: A History of American Graphic Design symposiums.

The World in Terms of General Motors

The visual in the December 1938 issue of Fortune Magazine was called The World in Terms of General Motors. It depicted a sketch map showing the location of (then) GM’s 110 plants. The spheres representing each plant are proportional (in volume) to their normal number of workers. The key numbers of the spheres are indexed on the map. The map does not include those manufacturing plants in which GM has less than 50% stock. The principal ones are Ethyl Gasoline Corp., Bendix Aviation Corp., Kinetic Chemicals, Inc., and North American Aviation, Inc.

Not shown are GM’s many non-manufacturing interests, domestic warehouses, etc.

So, finally, here is the complete map.



[Click on the map image to enlarge]



Mapping Time: A Detailed Look at Minard’s Flow Map

Charles Minard’s Map of Napoleon’s Russian Campaign of 1812

One of the most famous maps incorporating time was created in 1861 by Charles Minard, a French Engineer.  The map and chart, entitled, “Carte figurative des pertes successives en hommes de l’Armée Française dans la campagne de Russie 1812-1813″, brilliantly illustrated the march to and from the Polish-Russian border to Moscow by Napoleon’s army and was profiled in the article, Spatial Unmapped on GIS Lounge.

422,000 soldiers began the journey in June of 1812 towards Moscow and only 10,000 made it back to the border after the failed invasion.  Minard’s map has been acclaimed by many for its clear use of geography and time to show how devastating the invasion of Russia by France was on the troops.

Noted statistician and Yale professor, Edward Tufte, declared in his 1983 book The Visual Display of Quantitative Information that the Minard graph “may well be the best statistical graphic ever drawn.

Mapping Time

Esri Press has recently released a book inspired by Minard’s Map entitled, Mapping Time:

Published by Esri Press, Menno-Jan Kraak’s book Mapping Time: Illustrated by Minard’s Map of Napoleon’s Russian Campaign of 1812 combines historical and geographic analysis with cartography to examine mapping change over time.

The book includes more than 100 full-color illustrations inspired by graphic innovator Charles Minard’s classic flow line map of Napoleon’s disastrous invasion of Russia.

Kraak is a professor of geovisual analytics and cartography at the University of Twente in Enschede, Netherlands who has also written the textbook, Cartography, Visualization of Geospatial Data.

Book details: Mapping Time: Illustrated by Minard’s Map of Napoleon’s Russian Campaign of 1812 is available in print (ISBN: 9781589483125, 168 pages, hardcover) and e-book format (ISBN: 9781589483668).


DataViz as Maps: Thousands of Historic Maps Released by the New York Public Library

Map - California

The unique map of California, produced by the Southern Pacific Company in 1890. Click for more details

The Lionel Pincus & Princess Firyal Map Division, New York Public Library (NYPL) has announced the release of more than 20,000 cartographic works as high-resolution downloads. The New York Public Library believes these maps have no known U.S. copyright restrictions.* To the extent that some jurisdictions grant NYPL an additional copyright in the digital reproductions of these maps, NYPL is distributing these images under a Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication. The maps can be viewed through the New York Public Library’s Digital Collections page, and downloaded, through the Map Warper. You will first need to create an account, then click a map title and go.

Here’s a primer and more extended blog post on the warper.

Plan of Bay Ridge Parkway, Olmsted, Olmsted & Eliot Landscape Architects, 1895

 What’s this means for all of us map lovers?

It means you can have the maps, all of them if you want, for free, in high resolution. NYPL has scanned them to enable their use in the broadest possible ways by the largest number of people.

Though not required, if you’d like to credit the New York Public Library, please use the following text “From The Lionel Pincus & Princess Firyal Map Division, The New York Public Library.” Doing so helps them track what happens when they release collections like this to the public for free under really relaxed and open terms. NYPL believes their collections inspire all kinds of creativity, innovation and discovery, things they hold very dear.

Sanitary and social chart of the Fourth Ward of the City of New York, to accompany a report of the 4th Sanitary Inspection District. 1864

* The maps may be subject to rights of privacy, rights of publicity and other restrictions. It is your responsibility to make sure that you respect these rights.


Infographics Related to Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370


Like many other people around the World, I have been watching with curiosity and sadness the news about the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370. On March 8th, Flight MH370 vanished from radar with 239 people on board.

Many media outlets have developed infographics to help us to try to understand what happened and what we know so far.

I have included several different infographics, from various media outlets, related to what looks like a sad tragedy. They are listed sequentially by date published.

My prayers go out to the families who are frantically waiting for any definitive news about the flight.



Straits Times, Sunday, March 9, 2014


Engineering & Technology Magazine, Monday, March 10, 2014


Engineering & Technology Magazine, Wednesday, March 12, 2014


The New York Times, Wednesday, March 12, 2014

NYT - Detecting a Plane

NYT - Radar Path

NYT Malaysia Artboard

Channel NewsAsia, Thursday, March 13, 2014


South China Morning Post, Thursday, March 13, 2014


Dataviz as Maps: The First Map of Africa

Source: Josh Marshall, Artifacts #1: The First Map of Africa,, March 7, 2014,

Josh MarshallI haven’t shown a map in a while, so I thought I would share this one posted on by Josh Marshall (photo, right).  Mr. Marshall is editor and publisher of

Mr. Marshall notes that the map below is believed to be the first map of Africa, as a continent.  “Africa” was originally a Roman term for the region of modern Tunisia and the western portion of Libya. The Arabs later adopted a similar definition. But this is the first known map of the new concept of Africa as a continent stretching from North Africa down to a southern tip that could be rounded and from which you could then sail on to India and Asia.

Princeton University, Historic Maps Collection.

The map is the work of Sebastian Munster (1489-1552), a professor of Hebrew at the University of Basel. This is mid-16th century, so going on 60 years after Europeans first rounded the Cape of Good Hope to Asia, though the Portuguese had been exploring the western coast of Africa a good deal longer.

Mr. Marshall continues by saying that this map is a fascinating period in the history of European map-making since most were then being strung together through an odd partnership between university academics and printers in Europe on the one hand and explorers and traders on the other, the former still partly hung up on ancient ideas on the shape and outlines of the world as well as theories about where certain things must be and the latter with real observational data about what they’d seen.

Not surprisingly, North Africa is fairly accurate and the key rivers in West Africa bear at least some resemblance to their true locations.  Things get a good deal iffier about Central Africa and the scale of Subsaharan Africa. And there’s a pretty serious Ethiopia fail. It’s right over the one-eyed giants who live in Nigeria. When you consider the limited observational knowledge, extremely poor ability to measure distance, obstacles to communications and the fact that the key sea-faring powers treated all this information as state secrets, the degree of accuracy is fairly remarkable.

In viewing the map below, Mr. Marshall notes that still more remarkable is this Abraham Ortelius map from only 30 years later.  Published at Antwerp in 1584.

Princeton University. Historic Maps Collection.

As you can see, on a quick look this could almost be a modern map of Africa, though many things are distorted, not least the scale of the Red Sea relative to the rest of the continent.

Map: The Geographic Locations of Disney and Pixar Films Around the World

Digital artist Eowyn Smith has created a map of the world highlighting the location where animated films by Disney and Pixar took place. The fan art maps 44 Disney animated films 13 Pixar films. It reaches as far back as Disney’s first film, Snow White, and includes Disney’s 2013 release Frozen.

In traditional cartography fashion, Wall-E, Monsters, Inc., Dinosaur, Treasure Planet, and Wreck-It Ralph are given an inset. The films are variously set in the future, prehistoric past, or alternate universes.

The map has inspired fierce debate online, both on deviantART and reddit, as commenters fact checked the artwork. Smith clarified her process when she uploaded the fan art:

    1. Movie was placed based on the location IMPLIED IN THE DISNEY/PIXAR VERSION
    2. If the movie was too vague to determine a location, the original story/myth was consulted.


Source: Katherine M. Hill, Laughing Squid,  February 11, 2014,


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