Map: Visualizing 40 Years of Nautical Piracy
View the full-size version of the infographic by clicking here
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.”
Ranked: Biggest Fast Food Chains in America
Every year, fast food chains rake in north of $200 billion in revenue per year. Here are the biggest chains, ranked by revenue and number of locations.
Ranked: The Biggest Fast Food Chains in America
Fast food is a supersized business in America.
The average American spends as much as $1,200 every year on fast food — and roughly a quarter of the U.S. population eats three or more fast food meals per week.
Today’s unique infographic, via TitleMax, shows just how dominant the quick serve food industry is, and which brands are leading the pack in terms of revenue and store locations.
All of the biggest fast food chains now top $1 billion in sales annually. McDonald’s leads the pack with almost triple the sales of the number two chain, Starbucks.
Below are the top 30 fast food chains in the United States by revenue:
|Rank||Chain||Sales (U.S., 2017)||# of Locations (U.S.)|
|18||Jack in the Box||$3.5B||2,251|
In 2017, the top 30 fast food chains rang up $172 billion in sales at over 140,000 locations across the United States. When smaller chains are also included, annual industry revenue tops a whopping $200 billion.
Fast food can be a profitable business, but certain chains are runaway successes when sales-per-unit are considered. Chick-fil-A’s sales average out to $4.3 million per location — 53% higher than McDonald’s, which brings in $2.8 million of sales per location.
Subway, which is known for having a low franchise fee and no exclusive territory rights, has the lowest sales-per-unit in the top 30 ($419,792).
That said, no one can compare to Subway in terms of sheer volume. The chain has over 25,000 locations, making it not only the biggest fast food chain in the country, but the most common retailer overall (even beating out dollar stores). It’s possible that America has seen peak Subway though — the number of locations has been steadily dropping since 2011.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is Starbucks. The Seattle-based coffee chain has been relentlessly expanding over the past decade.
Of course, not all fast food chains have the ubiquity of Subway and McDonald’s. Many of these brands have achieved impressive sales numbers in specific regions. Whether you’re loyal to Dunkin’ Donuts, Chick-fil-A, or In-N-Out may depend heavily on where you live.
Will America’s next big fast food powerhouse come from an already-strong regional chain, or will it be the result of a new phenomenon, completely?
Wired World: 35 Years of Submarine Cables in One Map
Watch the explosive growth of the global submarine cable network, and learn who’s funding the next generation of cables.
You could be reading this article from nearly anywhere in the world and there’s a good chance it loaded in mere seconds.
Long gone are the days when images would load pixel row by pixel row. Now, even high-quality video is instantly accessible from almost everywhere. How did the internet get so fast? Because it’s moving at the speed of light.
The Information Superhighway
The miracle of modern fiber optics can be traced to a single man, Narinder Singh Kapany. The young physicist was skeptical when his professors asserted that light ‘always travels in a straight line’. His explorations into the behavior of light eventually led to the creation of fiber optics—essentially, beaming light through a thin glass tube.
The next step to using fiber optics as a means of communication was lowering the cable’s attenuation rate. Throughout the 1960-70s, companies made gains in manufacturing, reducing the number of impurities and allowing light to cross great distances without a dramatic decrease in signal intensity.
By the mid-1980s, long distance fiber optic cables had finally reached the feasibility stage.
Crossing the Pond
The first intercontinental fiber optic cable was strung across the floor of the Atlantic Ocean in 1988. The cable—known as TAT-8*—was spearheaded by three companies; AT&T, France Télécom, and British Telecom. The cable was able to carry the equivalent of 40,000 telephone channels, a ten-fold increase over its galvanic predecessor, TAT-7.
Once the kinks of the new cable were worked out, the floodgates were open. During the course of the 1990s, many more cables hit the ocean floor. By the dawn of the new millennium, every populated continent on Earth was connected by fiber optic cables. The physical network of the internet was beginning to take shape.
As today’s video from ESRI shows, the early 2000s saw a boom in undersea cable development, reflecting the uptick in internet usage around globe. In 2001 alone, eight new cables connected North America and Europe.
From 2016-2020, over 100 new cables were laid with an estimated value of $14 billion. Now, even the most remote Polynesian islands have access to high-speed internet thanks to undersea cables.
*TAT-8 does not appear in the video above as it was retired in 2002.
The Shifting Nature of Cable Construction
Even though nearly every corner of the globe is now physically connected, the rate of cable construction is not slowing down.
This is due to the increasing capacity of new cables and our appetite for high-quality video content. New cables are so efficient that the majority of potential capacity along major cable routes will come from cables that are less than five years old.
Traditionally, a consortium of telecom companies or governments would fund cable construction, but tech companies are increasingly funding their own submarine cable networks.
Amazon, Microsoft and Google own close to 65% market share in cloud data storage, so it’s understandable that they’d want to control the physical means of transporting that data as well.
These three companies now own 63,605 miles of submarine cable. While laying cable is a costly endeavor, it’s necessary to meet surging demand—content providers’ share of data transmission skyrocketed from around 8% to nearly 40% over the past decade.
A Bright Future for Dark Fiber
At the same time, more aging cables will be taken offline. Even though signals are no longer traveling through this network of “dark fiber”, it’s still being put to productive use. It turns out that undersea telecom cables make a very effective seismic network, helping researchers study offshore earthquakes and the geologic structures on the ocean floor.
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