Jan 07 2014

Might Learn Something: Shipping Map of the 19th Century

ku-xlargeBack in the 1800’s you didn’t have airplanes to transport your Mountain Dew Cheetos around the world for you. You were required to wait months while ships brought them to you only for them to arrive horribly smashed and stale. But that’s besides the point here. Ben Schmidt created a map of 19th century shipping paths, and only the shipping paths. It’s kind of odd to see a map that features no land.

The map is the work of Ben Schmidt, assistant professor of history at Northeastern University. Schmidt’s creation sprang from a publicly available data set: ship’s logs, originally compiled by 19th Century oceanographer Lt. Matthew Fontaine Maury, that were later catalogued by NOAA. Schmidt calls the map an exercise in the “Digital Humanities,” where tools from the 1990s are used “to answer questions from the 1960s about 19th century America.”

Now I’d like to see a map of current shipping lanes. I would be interested to see just how much of the worlds traffic travels through the Panama and Suez canals. I’ll bet it’s a lot.

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