Mapping the Voyages for Reading

The following map views are currently available or in progress:

The multi-volume length of the 18th-century Pacific voyage publications makes them appealing candidates for computational analysis, applying "distant reading" tools of the digital humanities to assist the human reader in processing massive quantities of information. Our efforts to map the voyage publications have involved stages of markup and careful processing to generate "reading views" of the voyages through Google Earth. We began by autotagging digital files of the voyages, structuring them in TEI XML, and we applied regular expression matching to capture geographic coordinates. A significant challenge for contemporary mappers of 18th-century voyages is that latitude and longitude coordinates are often written inconsistently and separately, divided by several words in a long paragraph, and that the 18th-century records mark degrees, minutes, and seconds rather than convenient decimal notations necessary for Google Earth and mapping software. Further, entries in degrees, minutes, and seconds might not be immediate geoposition readings: they may be referencing previous voyage logs or recording azimuth readings (plotting positions relative to magnetic North). Careful human review is necessary after stages of autotagging to "weed out" extraneous coordinates.

Coordinating efforts with project teams has helped to process segments of these very long texts, and the result is the production and gradual improvement of Pacific voyage maps on our site. We have also experimented with simpler mapping methods, overlaying digitized historic and contemporary maps to help orient our readers to the early voyages. Most of our maps are designed in KML (Keyhole Markup Language) to be read in either Google Earth or Google Maps, and clicking on marked points brings up relevant paragraphs for that place in the published record.