Monday, January 15, 2018

Lighting Up the World


Lighthouses of the World is an interesting map of all the world's lighthouses. OK, it isn't that interesting - but I do like how the map lights up some of the world's busiest coastlines and the Great Lakes of North America.

I believe the map was made using data from OpenStreetMap (you can read more about how lighthouses are mapped on the OSM Wiki). This does mean that the Lighthouses of the World map is only as accurate as the data on OSM. It could be that some areas of the world have not had as many lighthouses mapped as other areas of the world.


You can see that not all busy coastlines have lighthouses marked on the map. You can view most of the busiest shipping lanes around the world on Shipmap.org. Shipmap.org is an outstanding animated map that visualizes the movements of the global merchant shipping fleet over the course of one year.

If you compare the two maps it appears that Africa and the western coastline of South America are two areas with heavy marine traffic but less lighthouses. I'm not sure if this is due to a lack of data on OSM in these regions or if there isn't the same tradition of building lighthouses in these areas of the world.

Another thing I like about this map is its use of Firefly Cartography. Firefly Cartography is a term coined by John Nelson to describe maps with:

  • A dark, de-saturated basemap (usually imagery) 
  • Masked highlight area and vignette 
  • Single bright, glowing, thematic layer
Lighthouses of the World certainly has the dark basemap and glowing thematic data of firefly cartography. Of course a firefly cartographic theme is entirely appropriate for a map of lighthouses, which are meant to similarly guide us in the dark. 
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