Map: Visualizing 40 Years of Nautical Piracy
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For millennia, voyaging on the open seas has been a dangerous and risky endeavor.
Between the powerful forces of Mother Nature and self-made obstacles stemming from human error, there is no shortage of possible calamities for even the bravest of sailors.
But for most of human history, perhaps the biggest fear that sailors grappled with was that of piracy. A run in with such marauders could lead to the theft of valuable cargo or even possible death, and it’s a threat that carries on even through modern times.
Hotbeds of Modern Piracy
Today’s map comes from Adventures in Mapping and it aggregates instances of piracy over the last 40 years based on the database from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.
It should be noted that all individual events can be seen on this interactive map, which is what we will use to look at current hotbeds of piracy in more depth below.
1. The Strait of Malacca
The Strait of Malacca is one of the world’s most important shipping lanes, and also one of the most notorious.
A key chokepoint that sits between Malaysia and Indonesia, the Strait of Malacca is as narrow as 25 miles wide while also seeing a quarter of the world’s traded goods shipped through it every year. As a result, the strait and surrounding area are a frequent target for modern piracy.
Example account: (September 2002)
“The 1,699-ton Malaysian-flag tanker (NAUTICA KLUANG) was hijacked 28 Sep at 0300 local time while underway off Indonesia in the vicinity of Pulau Iyu Kecil at the southern tip of the Strait of Malacca. The pirates, armed with guns and machetes, tied up the crew and locked them in cabins. When the crew freed themselves at 0900, 29 Sep, the thieves had transferred the ship’s cargo of 3,000 tons of diesel oil, damaged communications equipment, and renamed it (CAKLU). ”
2. The Horn of Africa
When many people think of modern piracy, they think of the coast of Somalia. While those waters are often avoided, the nearby areas can be just as problematic.
In particular, the Bab el Mandeb strait, which connects the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean, is a target for modern piracy. Similarly, the waters just off of Yemen are quite treacherous as well.
Example account: (January 1991)
“Somali pirates attached MV Naviluck off Somalia, killing three Filipino crewmen and setting fire to the vessel. Three boatloads of armed Somali pirates boarded the vessel on 12 Jan 91 took the crew ashore and killed three of them. The captain said the vessel was attacked off Xaafuun while on her way from Mombasa to Jeddah. He declined to specify the cargo. The surviving crew were made to jump overboard, and were later rescued by M Stern TRLR Dubai Dolphin.”
3. The Gulf of Guinea
While we hear the most about Somalian pirates, the Gulf of Guinea that sits south of Nigeria, Benin, Togo, and Ghana in West Africa is also a well-known hotbed.
Tanker theft of petroleum products being shipped to and from Nigerian refineries is rampant, creating an ongoing concern for companies operating in the region.
Example account: (June 2013)
“On 13 June, the Singapore-flagged underway offshore supply vessel MDPL CONTINENTAL ONE was boarded and personnel kidnapped at 04-02N 008-02E, approximately 7 nm southwest of the OFON Oil Field. Two fiberglass speedboats, each with 2 outboards engines, each carrying 14 gunmen in wearing casual t-shirts and no masks, launched an attack. The pirates were armed with AK47’s. After stealing personal items and belongings, four expat crew were kidnapped (Polish Chief Engineer) and three Indians (Captain, Chief Officer, and Bosun).”
4. The Caribbean
The Caribbean has a longstanding history with piracy – and while things have died down considerably since the peak, there are still isolated incidents that occur, especially with yachts.
Most incidents happen off the coast of Venezuela, or in and around the islands on the eastern side of the sea, such as Trinidad & Tobago, Barbados, and Grenada.
Example account: (March 2016)
“On 4 March, near position 13-16N 061-16W, several gunmen boarded a yacht anchored at Wallilabou in southwestern St. Vincent. During the course of the boarding, a German citizen aboard the yacht was killed and another person was injured. Authorities are investigating the incident.”
As the Worlds Turn: Visualizing the Rotation of Planets
Rotation can have a big influence on a planet’s habitability. These animations show how each planet in the solar system moves to its own distinct rhythm.
As the Worlds Turn: Visualizing the Rotations of Planets
The rotation of planets have a dramatic effect on their potential habitability.
Dr. James O’Donoghue, a planetary scientist at the Japanese space agency who has the creative ability to visually communicate space concepts like the speed of light and the vastness of the solar system, recently animated a video showing cross sections of different planets spinning at their own pace on one giant globe.
Cosmic Moves: The Rotation of the Planets
Each planet in the solar system moves to its own rhythm. The giant gas planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune) spin more rapidly on their axes than the inner planets. The sun itself rotates slowly, only once a month.
|Planet||Rotation Periods (relative to stars)|
The planets all revolve around the sun in the same direction and in virtually the same plane. In addition, they all rotate in the same general direction, with the exceptions of Venus and Uranus.
In the following animation, their respective rotation speeds are compared directly:
The most visually striking result of planetary spin is on Jupiter, which has the fastest rotation in the solar system. Massive storms of frozen ammonia grains whip across the surface of the gas giant at speeds of 340 miles (550 km) per hour.
Interestingly, the patterns of each planet’s rotation can help in revealing whether they can support life or not.
Rotation and Habitability
As a fish in water is not aware it is wet, so it goes for humans and the atmosphere around us.
New research reveals that the rate at which a planet spins is an essential component for supporting life. Not only does rotation control the length of day and night, bit it influences atmospheric wind patterns and the formation of clouds.
The radiation the Earth receives from the Sun concentrates at the equator. The Sun heats the air in this region until it rises up through the atmosphere and moves towards the poles of the planet where it cools. This cool air falls through the atmosphere and flows back towards the equator.
This process is known as a Hadley cell, and atmospheres can have multiple cells:
A planet with a quick rotation forms Hadley cells at low latitudes into different bands that encircle the planet. Clouds become prominent at tropical regions, which reflect a proportion of the light back into space.
For a planet in a tighter orbit around its star, the radiation received from the star is much more extreme. This decreases the temperature difference between the equator and the poles, ultimately weakening Hadley cells. The result is fewer clouds in tropical regions available to protect the planet from intense heat, making the planet uninhabitable.
Slow Rotators: More Habitable
If a planet rotates slower, then the Hadley cells can expand to encircle the entire world. This is because the difference in temperature between the day and night side of the planet creates larger atmospheric circulation.
Slow rotation makes days and nights longer, such that half of the planet bathes in light from the sun for an extended period of time. Simultaneously, the night side of the planet is able to cool down.
This difference in temperature is large enough to cause the warm air from the day side to flow to the night side. This movement of air allows more clouds to form around a planet’s equator, protecting the surface from harmful space radiation, encouraging the possibility for the right conditions for life to form.
The Hunt for Habitable Planets
Measuring the rotation of planets is difficult with a telescope, so another good proxy would be to measure the level of heat emitted from a planet.
An infrared telescope can measure the heat emitted from a planet’s clouds that formed over its equator. An unusually low temperature at the hottest location on the planet could indicate that the planet is potentially a habitable slow rotator.
Of course, even if a planet’s rotation speed is just right, many other conditions come into play. The rotation of planets is just another piece in the puzzle in identifying the next Earth.
Visualizing the U.S. Airports with the Worst Flight Delays
With flight travel more than tripling in the past 30 years, we break down the most notorious airports in the U.S. with the worst flight delays.
Visualizing the U.S. Airports with the Worst Flight Delays
They say good things come to those who wait. In the case of flight passengers, however, some may be waiting much longer than others.
With frequent flights comes frequent problems. Unexpected travel irritations, delays, and cancellations are all common issues faced by flyers the world over. Correspondingly, certain airports have developed a reputation for making their passengers wait.
Today’s interactive chart from USAFacts shows the percentage of flights delayed, as well as the average length of those delays, at U.S. airports between October 2018 and September 2019.
The Top 10 Airports With the Longest Delays
In the worst airports across the country, over 25% of all flights get delayed. Here is a list of the top offenders based on percentage of flights delayed and the average delay, according to flight data.
|Rank||City||Airport||Percent of Flights Arriving Late||Average Delay Across Flights|
|#1||Newark||Newark Liberty International||26.5%||22 minutes|
|#2||New York||LaGuardia||24.5%||19.6 minutes|
|#3||Chicago||Chicago O'Hare International||25.5%||19.2 minutes|
|#4||Boston||Logan International||22%||17.3 minutes|
|#5||Dallas||Dallas/Fort Worth International||23.3%||16.5 minutes|
|#6||San Francisco||San Francisco International||22.4%||16.2 minutes|
|#7||Fort Lauderdale||Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International||21.9%||16.3 minutes|
|#8||Denver||Denver International||21.6%||15.3 minutes|
|#9||Miami||Miami International||21.6%||15.3 minutes|
|#10||Chicago||Chicago Midway||22%||13.4 minutes|
Newark Liberty International takes the top spot, with 26.5% of all flights taking off late. To make matters worse, it also had the longest average delay time, at 22 minutes per flight. The runner-up is another New York-based airport, LaGuardia, averaging close to 20 minutes per flight delay.
The third worst offender was Chicago O’Hare International airport, where over a quarter of flights arrived late, with an average delay of 19 minutes. Chicago O’Hare International saw more flights than Newark and LaGuardia combined, making average delays more costly.
What’s Behind These Major Flight Delays?
While the New York area hosts two of the worst airports in the country, flight delays are exacerbated by a number of regional factors.
First, it hosts one of the busiest air corridors worldwide. As a result, any unexpected interruption or delay has an outsized effect on flights arriving at their destination on time.
Coupled with this is the commanding presence of United Airlines. As one of the largest airlines in the world, it operates over 401 daily flights at Newark airport. Additionally, United has been known to have operational issues. For example, in June 2019, significant aircraft problems led the Newark airport to suspend flights altogether.
There are four major causes of flight delays: poor weather conditions, late aircraft, carrier related (such as baggage, fueling, or maintenance problems), and airspace system issues.
According to this data, it’s clear that late aircraft is the most prevalent cause for flight delays that ended up being longer than 15 minutes.
Late aircraft creates a domino effect: when an airplane arrives late at an airport, a following flight that uses the same aircraft will depart behind schedule. In peak months such as July, this contributes to nearly 50% of flight delays.
Worst Months of the Year to Fly
The number of flights on U.S. airlines has more than tripled, from 275 million flights in 1978 to 889 million in 2018.
Along with this, flight activity is typically highest in the summer—coinciding with July’s highest average flight delay of 76 minutes. Months in the summer followed suit, with June averaging 72 minutes per delay and August having an average delay of 71 minutes, among flights that were delayed over 15 minutes.
|Month||Rank||Average Delay (in minutes)|
Perhaps surprisingly, flights in December bucked this trend. Even as a flight-heavy month, average long delays hovered around 60 minutes during the holiday season.
The 10 U.S. Airports with the Fewest Delays
By comparison, a number of airports appear to have avoided this trap. Data below shows the top airports in the U.S. with the fewest flight delays during the same time period.
|Rank||City||Airport||Percent of Flights Arriving Late||Average Delay Across Flights|
|#1||Honolulu||Daniel K Inouye International||10.5%||6.8 minutes|
|#2||Anchorage||Ted Stevens Anchorage International||11%||7.1 minutes|
|#3||Lihue||Lihue Airport||10.1%||7.7 minutes|
|#4||Long Beach||Long Beach Airport||12.6%||8.4 minutes|
|#5||Sacramento||Sacramento International||14%||8.6 minutes|
|#6||Kahului||Kahului Airport||12.7%||8.9 minutes|
|#7||Portland||Portland International||13.8%||9 minutes|
|#8||San Jose||Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International||14.9%||9.2 minutes|
|#9||Salt Lake City||Salt Lake City International||13.3%||9.7 minutes|
|#10||Santa Ana||John Wayne Airport-Orange County||14.7%||9.8 minutes|
As the volume of air travel continues to climb, it is clear that some airports underperform others by a wide margin. To break the vicious cycle of delays, it will be vital for airports to get initial flights departing on time in the first place.
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