Timed Travel
November 30, 2015 7:17 AM   Subscribe

Ever wonder how quickly you could get from London to Winnipeg a hundred years ago? Turns out it's 5 to 10 days, according to an "isochronic" map from An Atlas of Economic Geography, compiled by John G. Bartholomew in 1914.

The map shows how long it would typically take to travel anywhere in the world from London, which primarily meant ships and trains back then -- hence the long travel times to the interiors of Africa and South America.
posted by Etrigan (37 comments total) 46 users marked this as a favorite

 
I wonder what comment Ernest Shackleton made about this map to his closest colleagues?
posted by fairmettle at 7:23 AM on November 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


Fascinating. Australia really was a good old way away for the European,
posted by GallonOfAlan at 7:23 AM on November 30, 2015


Here's an 1881 map centered on London as well as other isochronic maps.
posted by Nelson at 7:29 AM on November 30, 2015 [10 favorites]


Obviously this map doesn't reckon waiting times for employment visas, else most of America would be deep blue.
posted by notyou at 7:30 AM on November 30, 2015


This is cool, too, but I was expecting to see a map with London in the middle and all of the continents distorted around it to meet a series of concentric circles representing different lengths of time.

I'm a little disappointed, frankly. :(
posted by ZenMasterThis at 7:30 AM on November 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


I did not know how badly I wanted this until now and in retrospect I am angry that I have gone so long without this knowledge in my life.
posted by poffin boffin at 7:32 AM on November 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


Here's an 1881 map centered on London

Comparing that to the 1914 one shows quite nicely what a difference the Trans-Siberian Railway made.
posted by cjelli at 7:35 AM on November 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


Isochronic.
My life is richer.
posted by From Bklyn at 7:35 AM on November 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Apparently maps like this are the quickest way from London to my heart.
posted by barchan at 7:35 AM on November 30, 2015 [11 favorites]


I would really like one localized on London, set in 1815, and including highly detailed information for travel within Britain and the nearer parts of Europe.

If anybody could dig that up, the historical romance writers of the world would be ever so grateful.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:50 AM on November 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


If you liked that map, chances are you're gonna like this one as well. From here.
posted by brokkr at 7:55 AM on November 30, 2015 [7 favorites]


Here's an 1881 map centered on London

Comparing that to the 1914 one shows quite nicely what a difference the Trans-Siberian Railway made.


Yeah, Phineas Fogg would have loved to have used the Trans-Siberian Railway. In 1881, it would have taken about 40 days to get to Japan going either east or west, so 80 days was just on the margins of doable; in 1914, he probably could have made it around in 60–70 days.
posted by Johnny Assay at 7:58 AM on November 30, 2015


*Travel times may vary. Map doesn't take into account delays caused by storms, typhoid, or collisions with icebergs.
posted by droro at 8:00 AM on November 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


Sobering to think how different the reality of 1915 would have looked to an international traveler compared to the remarkable freedom of pre-war 1914. In most cases a passport wasn't even required for travel throughout Europe!

notyou made the joke about visas but it wasn't until the 1870s-1880s that legislation started limiting immigration to the US, and that was mostly directed at Chinese immigration. It wasn't until WWI and after that European immigration was really restricted. Strange how historically contingent global immigration laws are.
posted by Wretch729 at 8:00 AM on November 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


Obviously this map doesn't reckon waiting times for employment visas, else most of America would be deep blue.

I was just watching a documentary about the Asian-American experience recently that mentioned people trying to enter the U.S. during the early 20th century having to spend more than a year living at Angel Island on the West Coast, 22 months being the longest on record.
posted by XMLicious at 8:03 AM on November 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Johnny Assay - Nellie Bly did it in 72 days in 1890, and George Francis Train did it in 67 a few months later.
posted by Wretch729 at 8:06 AM on November 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Phineas Fogg being the man who famously traveled round the world with a railroad spike through his head?
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 8:07 AM on November 30, 2015 [8 favorites]


Isochronic.
My life is richer.


When I think of isochronic, I actually think of geochemistry and isochron plots, which are a product of plotting radioactive decay and thus used commonly in radiometric dating of rocks. The development of the lead-lead isochron gives us the age of the earth, which is another kind of time distance, although not from London but from the sun itself.

The discovery of half-lives and the first steps towards age dating by radiometric decay by Rutherford, Boltwood, Holmes, and others were just around the time this map was published. It's interesting to think if they saw maps like this and were inspired.
posted by barchan at 8:08 AM on November 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


In a sense, this is an advertisement for the Canadian Pacific Steamship Company.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 8:29 AM on November 30, 2015


Here's an 1881 map centered on London

Check out the Santa Fe trail across the American southwest.

Cool stuff.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:31 AM on November 30, 2015


Phineas Fogg being the man who famously traveled round the world with a railroad spike through his head?

But it's alright now, Jet Leg Flash is a gas, gas, gas.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:35 AM on November 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


> Sobering to think how different the reality of 1915 would have looked to an international traveler compared to the remarkable freedom of pre-war 1914. In most cases a passport wasn't even required for travel throughout Europe!

This new requirement infuriated Ezra Pound, who wrote in the Cantos about a Lombard ruler: "Authar, marvelous reign, no violence and no passports."
posted by languagehat at 8:59 AM on November 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Ooh, I've been investigating this lately! Here are some entries from my bookmarks:
* BART map, one minute per hexagon
* Mapnificent, covering dozens of cities
* OneBayArea, including housing prices
posted by Pronoiac at 9:00 AM on November 30, 2015 [8 favorites]


I wonder what an isochronic map of today's world would look like? And which place would now have the longest travel time?
posted by fairmettle at 9:02 AM on November 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Phineas Fogg being the man who famously traveled round the world with a railroad spike through his head?

I believe you are thinking about his brother, Ferb.
posted by briank at 9:06 AM on November 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


An isochronic map today would have to have more context, because if you're rich enough to charter a plane or a helicopter you can get just about anywhere within 24-48 hours. Some things don't change though - much like the London-based map where you start has an impact on your travel times; starting in a major city with a ton of transit options is way different than starting in Mongolia.
This little webapp doesn't seem to work on my work PC but given an interesting modern look at the Netherlands.
posted by Wretch729 at 9:08 AM on November 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


There's a whole lot of isochronic maps. I like the ones that distort the geometry to show distance. Tom Carden's London Tube map is a good one (pick a station in the dropdown at upper right). Here's some distortion treatments of Paris, too.

Where's the remotest place on Earth? is a useful spin on the isochronic map idea, for contemporary times. It's sort of the inverse of the London-centered maps; each spot on the map is colored by how long it takes to get from there to a town of 50,000 people.
posted by Nelson at 9:28 AM on November 30, 2015


Yeah, Phineas Fogg would have loved to have used the Trans-Siberian Railway.

In the absolutely charming game 80 Days, you can in fact take the "Trans-Siberian Express" all the way across Russia in less than two weeks, saving an enormous amount of time. (Unfortunately, the route ends in Vladivostok, which is under martial law; there's a good chance you'll be imprisoned there by the secret police.)
posted by Iridic at 9:42 AM on November 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


Where's the remotest place on Earth?

like 90th and York probably
posted by poffin boffin at 9:52 AM on November 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


Related: the McFarthest spot.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:08 AM on November 30, 2015


BART map, one minute per hexagon

I like the ones that distort the geometry to show distance

Those always remind me of that old "View of the world from 9th Avenue" New Yorker cover, and also of those cortical homunculi with huge hands, faces, and genitals, that illustrate how much of our nervous systems are dedicated to different parts of our bodies.
posted by aubilenon at 11:44 AM on November 30, 2015


Braudel's history of Civilization and Capitalism uses isochronic maps very helpfully to show the world bring tied into a single market.
posted by clew at 1:44 PM on November 30, 2015


The railroads definitely make this map what it is -- only thirty years earlier, a well-provisioned army took three months to make it to Winnipeg on a mostly overland route. The railroads didn't hit the Red River until around 1871, which at the time meant a slow steamboat along one of the bigger rivers to get that far into the lands east of the Rockies in the northern US and Canada.
posted by AzraelBrown at 2:24 PM on November 30, 2015


Looks like Outer Mongolia really is a far piece, as is Timbuktu, but BFE really isn't that hard to get to.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 4:12 PM on November 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


I wish there was a finer beginning gradation, I'm curious what places you could get to with one day's travel from London. I'd assume nearly all the UK and some of France and the Low Countries, but how much further?
posted by tavella at 4:27 PM on November 30, 2015


> I'd assume nearly all the UK and some of France and the Low Countries, but how much further?

As a frequent traveler, what first comes to mind is "but would you want to?" Chances are you'd make it Calaïs after the train to Dover and then a ferry/ship across the channel, but after that would you want to have to get on another train unless you absolutely had to? Even today it looks like 10 hours of travel (not using the chunnel - which is like two and a half hours, less time than going from Boston to NYC) doing the train-ferry-train dance.
posted by mrzarquon at 6:53 PM on November 30, 2015


If you were an upper-class sort in a nice train carriage, doesn't seem any reason why not. People used to spend days on trains and be fairly comfortable. I'm just curious if you had a deadline, could you make it from London to Paris the next day?
posted by tavella at 9:00 PM on November 30, 2015


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