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Map: The World’s Network of Submarine Cables

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submarine cable network map

Map: The World’s Network of Submarine Cables

View the above visualization at full resolution for the best experience.

Submarine cables are decidedly uncool. But while they lack the flashiness of satellites, it’s actually the world’s vast network of fiber optic cables that does most of the heavy lifting in keeping our information flowing from place to place.

The map above, by Ben Pollock, is a comprehensive look at the world’s cable network, as well as some of the impressive information on bandwidth and maintenance jurisdictions.

The History of Submarine Cables

The first transcontinental cable – laid in 1858 – ran from Ireland to Newfoundland, and made telegraph communication possible between England and Canada.

atlantic cable map

Though communication was expensive and limited to only a few words per hour at best, the speed of communication was unparalleled at the time.

“Instant” communication was a huge commercial hit, and it prompted a cable laying boom. By the year 1900, there were already over 130,000 miles (200,000 km) of cable running along the ocean floor!

Beyond the Telegram

The first transatlantic telephone cables went into service in 1956, and 32 years later, the first fiber optic cable connected Europe and America.

Fiber optic technology made transmitting massive quantities of information fast and cost-effective. The level of speed has only increased with time – and now cables can transmit 160 terabits per second.

cable cross section

(One common misconception is that most of our information is transmitted through satellites, but fiber optic cables actually form the backbone of the internet, transmitting about 99% of all data.)

Today, there are over 420 submarine cables in service, stretching over 700,000 miles (1.1 million km) around the world. The network is clustered around information economy hotspots like Singapore and New York, but cables connect to just about anywhere.

Remote Pacific islands, and even obscure ocean towns in the Arctic Circle have such connections.

Who’s Footing the Bill?

Traditionally, private companies or consortiums formed by telecom carriers owned cables, but that model is changing. Content providers such as Google and Microsoft are increasingly major investors in new cable. Cloud computing is the big demand driver of this new private cable boom.

As more millions more people around the world adopt cloud computing, we’ll be certain to see even more cables criss-crossing the world’s oceans in the near future.

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Energy

Mapped: Fossil Fuel Production by Country

These four animated cartograms show the nations leading the world in fossil fuel production, in terms of oil, gas, coal, and total hydrocarbons.

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Fossil fuels exist as a double-edged sword for most countries.

On one hand, they still make up a dominant piece of the current energy mix, and oil is still seen as a crucial resource for achieving geopolitical significance. It’s also no secret that fossil fuels are a driver for many economies around the world.

But with governments and corporations counting carbon emissions and mounting concerns about climate change, reliance on these same fuels will not last forever. As attitudes and policies evolve, they will continue to see a reduced role going forward.

Visualizing Fossil Fuels by Country

So, which countries are pumping out the most hydrocarbons?

Today’s cartograms come from 911Metallurgist, and the animated maps resize each country based on their share of global fossil fuel production.

Below, you’ll see four cartograms that cover oil, gas, coal, and total fossil fuel production.

Crude Oil Production

The United States leads this category, producing about 18% of the world’s total oil:

Oil production by country

Although the U.S. is the number one producer globally, it should be noted that the country doesn’t have the same quantity of oil reserves as other leading nations.

Weirdly, Venezuela has the exact opposite problem. The country has the most oil reserves in the world, but currently only sits as its 12th biggest producer.

Natural Gas Production

In terms of gas, the U.S. leads again with a 20% share of global production. Russia is also a gas powerhouse, with a 17.3% share.

Natural gas production by country

After the U.S. and Russia, it’s a fairly steep dropoff in terms of natural gas production. Countries like Iran, Canada, Qatar, and China are the next most significant players, but they each only produce 4-6% of the global total.

Coal Production

Coal use may be on the decline, but China still produces a whopping 45% of the world’s coal.

Coal production by country

China’s current relationship with coal is an interesting one.

Every year, coal has become less important in China’s energy mix – in 2011 it represented 70% of energy consumption, and by 2018 it had fell to 59%.

Despite this meaningful progress, China’s economy has grown so fast, that coal use has essentially held steady in absolute terms. Meanwhile, the country’s production of coal has actually grown slightly over the same timeframe.

Total Fossil Fuel Production

Finally, here is the sum of all three above categories, converted to metric tonnes:

Total fossil fuel production by country

The United States produces 20% of all global fossil fuels, with Russia and Iran rounding out the top three. After that comes Canada, which produces just under 5% of all fossil fuels globally.

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Maps

Visualizing the World’s 100 Biggest Islands

See the world’s 100 biggest islands in a side-by-side comparison. Then, we look to see which islands have the highest population densities.

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Visualizing 100 of the World’s Biggest Islands

View the full-size version of the infographic by clicking here.

When you think of an island, the first thing that might come to mind is a small, sunny beach surrounded by warm waters. But did you know that 11% of the world’s population actually calls islands their home?

Today’s data visualization is designed by mapmaker David Garcia, and it ranks the hundred largest islands found around the world by size.

Islands in the Stream

The 100 biggest islands range from the likes of expansive Greenland to independent Guadalcanal, the largest of the Solomon Islands. But look a little closer, and you’ll see just how much the top contender outshines the rest. Greenland is almost three times the size of the second-biggest island of New Guinea, and you could fit over 408 Guadalcanal islands within it.

In the visualization, the islands are also tinted, depending on the climate they come from. Blue islands are from the polar regions, turquoise islands lie in the temperate zones, and green islands represent the lush tropics. Which of these regions hosts the most islands?

IslandCountriesRegion
Kalaallit Nunaat (Greenland)DenmarkEurope
New GuineaPapua New Guinea, IndonesiaOceania
Pulau Borneo (Kalimantan)Indonesia, Malaysia, BruneiAsia
MadagasikaraMadagascarAfrica
Qikiqtaaluk (Baffin Island, Nunavut)CanadaNorth America
SumatraIndonesiaAsia
HonshuJapanAsia
Kitlineq (Victoria Island)CanadaNorth America
Great BritainUnited KingdomEurope
Ellesmere (Nunavut)CanadaNorth America
SulawesiIndonesiaAsia
Te Waipounamu (South Island)New ZealandOceania
JavaIndonesiaAsia
Te Ika-a-maui (North Island)New ZealandOceania
NewfoundlandCanadaNorth America
CubaCubaNorth America
LuzonPhilippinesAsia
IcelandIcelandEurope
MindanaoPhilippinesAsia
IrelandIreland, United KingdomEurope
HokkaidoJapanAsia
SakhalinRussiaEurasia
HispaniolaDominican Republic, HaitiNorth America
Banks IslandCanadaNorth America
Sri LankaSri LankaAsia
TasmaniaAustraliaOceania
Tatlurutit (Devon Island, Nunavut)CanadaNorth America
Isla Grande de Tierra del FuegoPanamaSouth America
SevernyRussiaEurasia
Shugliaq (Southampton)CanadaNorth America
Axel Heiberg (Nunavut)CanadaNorth America
MelvilleCanadaNorth America
Spitsbergen (Svalbard)NorwayEurope
KyushuJapanAsia
TaiwanTaiwanAsia
New BritainPapua New GuineaOceania
HainanChinaAsia
Prince of Wales (Nunavut)CanadaNorth America
YuzhnyRussiaEurasia
VancouverCanadaNorth America
TimorTimor LesteAsia
SicilyItalyEurope
Kuganajuup Qikiqtanga (Somerset, Nunavut)CanadaNorth America
SardiniaItalyEurope
KotelnyRussiaEurasia
ShikokuJapanAsia
HalmaheraIndonesiaAsia
SeramIndonesiaAsia
New CaledoniaFranceEurope
Bathurst (Nunavut)CanadaNorth America
Prince PatrickCanadaNorth America
SumbawaIndonesiaAsia
NordaustlandetNorwayEurope
October RevolutionRussiaEurasia
FloresIndonesiaAsia
King William (Nunavut)CanadaNorth America
NegrosPhilippinesAsia
SamarPhilippinesAsia
BangkaIndonesiaAsia
Yos SudarsoPapua New GuineaOceania
PanayPhilippinesAsia
Ellef Ringnes (Nunavut)CanadaNorth America
PalawanPhilippinesAsia
BolshevikRussiaEurasia
Bylot (Nunavut)CanadaNorth America
JamaicaCaribbeanNorth America
SumbaIndonesiaAsia
Viti LevuFijiOceania
Hawai'I (Big Island)United StatesNorth America
Cape BretonCanadaNorth America
MindoroPhilippinesAsia
Prince CharlesCanadaNorth America
Kodiak (Alaska)United StatesNorth America
CyprusCyprus, United KingdomEurope
KomsomoletsRussiaEurasia
CorsicaFranceEurope
BougainvillePapua New GuineaOceania
Puerto RicoUnited StatesNorth America
BuruIndonesiaAsia
DiskoGreenlandEurope
ChiloéChileSouth America
CreteGreeceEurope
AnticostiCanadaNorth America
Cornwallis (Nunavut)CanadaNorth America
ZealandDenmarkEurope
Latangai (New Ireland)Papua New GuineaOceania
LeytePhilippinesAsia
Prince of Wales (Alaska)United StatesNorth America
Desolation (Kerguelen)Antarctic Lands, FranceAntarctic
Isla Soledad/ East FalklandArgentinaSouth America
GrahamCanadaNorth America
WellingtonChileSouth America
Novaya Sibir (New Siberian)RussiaEurasia
Yelmalner/ MelvilleAustraliaOceania
Coats (Nunavut)CanadaNorth America
Prince EdwardCanadaNorth America
Vanua LevuFijiOceania
Chichagof (Alaska)United StatesNorth America
BaliIndonesiaAsia
GuadalcanalSolomon IslandsOceania

It’s the Island Life for Many

North America dominates with 32 islands out of the top 100, but there’s a catch — twelve of them are uninhabitable, thanks to the frigid Arctic temperatures.

Throw the number of people into the mix and the regional overview gets even more interesting. Compared to the rest of the world, Asian islands are teeming with life.

  • 28 Asian islands
    Total population: 510.4 million
  • 14 European islands
    Total population: 83.8 million
  • 32 North American islands
    Total population: 40.7 million
  • 12 Oceania islands
    Total population: 18.3 million

Taking things a step further, we’ve remixed the visualization based on population density.

Click below to view the full-size version.

Biggest Islands Sorted by Population Density

The most populated island in the world, Java is filled to the brim with 141 million people — that’s over a thousand people per square kilometer. This is in part thanks to the capital city Jakarta being located on the island, but experts warn those days may be short lived. By 2050, scientific models predict that 95% of the city may be underwater, and that Indonesia must scramble to find a new capital.

To finish, here is the 20 most dense islands on the list, in terms of population density.

Rank by DensityIslandCountriesPopulationArea (km²)People per km²
#1JavaIndonesia141,000,000138,7931,015.9
#2BaliIndonesia4,225,0005,780731.0
#3TaiwanTaiwan23,571,00036,193651.3
#4ZealandDenmark3,749,2007,031533.2
#5LuzonPhilippines53,336,134109,965485.0
#6HonshuJapan104,000,000227,960456.2
#7PanayPhilippines4,477,24712,011372.8
#8KyushuJapan12,970,47936,753352.9
#9Puerto RicoUnited States3,195,0009,104350.9
#10NegrosPhilippines4,414,13113,310331.6
#11Sri LankaSri Lanka21,440,00065,610 326.8
#12Great BritainUnited Kingdom66,040,000209,331315.5
#13HispaniolaDominican Republic, Haiti21,396,00076,192 280.8
#14JamaicaCaribbean2,890,00010,992262.9
#15MindanaoPhilippines25,537,69197,530261.8
#16HainanChina8,670,00033,920 255.6
#17ShikokuJapan3,845,53418800204.5
#18SicilyItaly5,057,00025,711196.7
#19FloresIndonesia1,831,00013,540135.2
#20SamarPhilippines1,751,26713,429130.4

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