Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Whaling Voyages of America

Before the development of oil refineries in the mid-nineteenth century whale oil was one of the main sources of fuel for lighting and the lubrication of machines. Whaling was therefore a huge industry. In 1858 America alone had 199 ships participating in the capture of whales. These whaling ships and their crews would make voyages which would last 6 months to three or four years, during which time they would travel vast distances all around the globe.

You can a great overview of the scale of American whaling and the extent of whaling voyages on American Whaling Journeys. This map uses data from whaling ship logs to visualize whaling journeys undertaken by American ships between 1784 and 1920. On the map individual whale sightings and strikes have been plotted by location. The colors of each dot on the map relates to the species of whale spotted or caught.

You can filter the data shown on the map by sightings, strikes and by date range.

If you visit the maps section of Whaling History you can actually view the tracks of individual voyages made by named whaling ships. These maps are very effective in showing the huge global journeys undertaken by whalers in hunt of their prey. The ship's routes are determined by mapping the individual locations made in each log entry. On the map the individual markers are also color-coded to show whale sightings, locations where whales were caught and the locations where no whales were spotted. You can also click through to view the logbook data and the names of the crew.


American Whaling Journeys isn't the first map to use historical ship log data. Wooden Ships is an interactive map which allows you to explore European maritime activity from 1750 to 1850. The visualization is based on digitized shipping logs from the Climatological Database for the World's Oceans 1750-1850.

Using the map menu you can view a mapped visualization of the marine journeys undertaken by British, Dutch, French and Spanish ships. You can use the time-line at the bottom of the map to select any range of years from 1750 to 1850. The map also allows you to filter the data by wind speed patterns and by other weather and climatic conditions. If you click on a hexbin on the map you can also read entries from the ship logbooks yourself.

Skip forward another 150 years and there really are very few areas of the world's oceans and seas which aren't a part of the global shipping trade. Shipmap.org is an outstanding animated interactive map visualizing the movements of the global merchant shipping fleet over the course of 2012.

The map uses AIS shipping data from exactEarth. This data is presented on a Leaflet powered map using custom designed map tiles. The map tiles include bathymetry and major river data from Natural Earth.

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