Nautical trade routes stretch like so many lengths of string in this arresting visualization of intercontinental commerce in the 1800s. The map that emerges highlights not only several continents and their busiest ports, but the various trade winds that cycle through the lower reaches of Earth's atmosphere.
The map is the work of Ben Schmidt, assistant professor of history at Northeastern University. Like many of our favorite visualizations, 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."
Complement with "A Map of U.S. Roads and Nothing Else."