Archive by Author | ttfnrob

Social Graph of the Royal Navy in WW1

As we said in our recent blog post, Old Weather has been churning through Royal Navy logbooks from World War 1 for long enough now that we can start to extract some interesting stats from the words transcribed by the community.

Social networks are all the rage now, but here at Zooniverse HQ we’ve been wondering what the 90-year-old social graph of Old Weather would look like. We’ll have more to say in the near future about the interactions of people on board the Royal Navy ships from our logs, but what about the ships themselves? When ships pass each other at sea, or meet to exchange supplies, officers and information, they make a note of this in their logs.

This enormous chart shows all of the Old Weather ships in a big grid, highlighting in purple where ships connect to each other. You can look down the chart, or across it, to find the interactions for a given ship. You can see that the HMS Arlanza and the Alsation seem to meet up with quite a few of the other ships of the chart. Both are Armed Merchant Cruisers that cross the busy stretch between the UK and the USA. So is the HMS Motugua, and it too has a fair few interactions with other vessels.

Taking those ships that are often mentioned, we can delve further into their interactions and create arc plots for those vessels. The arc plot below, for the HMS Alsatian, shows that it has encountered 26 ships in the transcriptions made to date. The thickness of the lines connecting vessels indicates the relative number of times that the two ships reference each other. The HMS Moldavia and HMS Patia are fairly well-connected with the Alsatian.

What isn’t shown on the large network plot is that the most mentioned vessel in the Old Weather fleet is the HMS Bee, a river gunboat and a ship that is only 36% complete so far on Old Weather (maybe you could jump aboard and help to complete it?). This ship is not mentioned a great deal by every ship but rather features regularly in the logs of a few vessel in the fleet. The arc plot for the HMS Bee is shown below. The HMS Bee interacts a great deal with the HMS Scarab and the HMS Cricket. all three are gunboats, as is the HMS Gnat. The next step here is to examine the logs and find out when these vessels interacted so much, and why. A blog post of these at a later time.

Finally, for this post, let’s look at the arc plot for the top twenty most-connected vessels in Old Weather so far. These are the ships from the large network plot that connect with the most other ships. These plots can be made for the whole fleet – but they become very large and complex and thus difficult to take value from. This slimmed-down version showing just the top twenty gives you an idea of the ships that are linked to other ships.

This is the kind of simplistic data that can be extracted from your transcriptions of events. So far, only the development team have been looking at this, but the tools are being made available to the historians of Old Weather for further analysis. I’m excited by what they can uncover.

Many of the ships listed in these charts are available on our Old Weather Voyages page, so you can see for yourselves how they interact with each other. You can use that page to read the log entries and see where ships were when they encountered one another. We’re always trying to find new ways for everyone to explore the Old Weather data and if you have any suggestions we’d love to hear them, either here on the blog or via twitter @oldweather.

Diving Into Old Weather

The Old Weather log books contain a huge number of events that occurred on board ships. These can range from reporting the weather in more colloquial terms, to noting that crewman are sick or injured or even that a comet has been seen in the night sky. Cleaning the ship, notable visitors and the details of battles all constitute a huge chunk of the massive volume of text that now fills the Old Weather data bulkheads.

Stuart Lynn, at Zooniverse HQ in Oxford, is the principal developer of Old Weather. He’s been busy toying with interesting ways to mine the ocean of textual event data that now exists thanks to tireless efforts of the Old Weather volunteers. We’ve toyed with Old Weather words before, but creating full-text search for the entire project is not a simple task. With 1.97 million words contained in a quart of a million logbook pages it can be painfully slow to find what you’re looking for if you don’t approach the task, and the database, in the right way. Never-the-less, Stuart has been busy and we’re now able to delve into these events to begin to extract some useful – and some fun – information.

Happy vs. Sad

This simple pie chart shows the relative proportions of log pages that include happy or sad events. As you can see, the result is not too cheerful. Only 5% of log pages containing these emotional words are happy. We searched for the words ‘happy’, ‘joy’, or ” and then for ‘sad’, ‘sadness’, ‘funeral’ or ”. One imagines that perhaps it felt more important to note the sad events in the log. Either way, these ships were not out on a jolly, there were at war.


There are often mentions in the logs regarding leisure activities aboard ship. The crew might play against each other or against other crews, but they definitely played some sport. Perhaps unsurprisingly, for British vessels, football is the most mentioned sport in the Old Weather logs, followed by cricket and a smattering of tennis.

The Weather

As well as recording the details of the weather that were required, the logs often also make reference to conditions in general. We grouped mentions of various weather conditions into good and bad weather categories. You can see that bad weather dominates the logs – again this could be a selection effect. It may be that people don’t note good weather as often as bad.

These are just some very simple charts that represent the initial skimming of the amazing data Old Weather is creating. As we get more transcriptions and learn how to navigate the database more nimbly, we hope to bring you more in-depth observations. We have a few more charts to share with you this week – so keep your eyes on the blog. If you can think of something you’d like to see from this data, then please let us know, either in the comments here, or on Twitter @oldweather.

Old Weather Voyages

Can you believe that Old Weather is 44% complete‽ I can’t, but that’s what the site is currently telling me. It’s amazing how much care and effort has been poured into this project by people all over the world. 63 vessels are now complete and the task of processing and understanding everything is underway.

Yesterday we said we had a little thank you coming and here it is: Old Weather Voyages. Stuart Lynn, the principal developer for Old Weather, and myself have been toying with the idea of displaying your weather and event transcriptions in a fun and interesting way. Old Weather Voyages lets you see the data that you have all provided in a way that puts the voyages of these ships front and centre

The Old Weather Voyages site displays one ship’s log book at a time and lets you watch events unfold as they did nearly a centrury ago. you can either just sit back and watch the ship at it voyages around the globe, or you can grab the time slider and whiz back and forth, seeing what happens and when.

As the ship moves around the world, its track is coloured according the the sea temperatures that have been recorded. The events from the ship’s log are shown on the log page on the left hand side. The image below shows the voyage of the HMS Africa up to the afternoon of Saturday November 3rd 1917. The log on the left shows that there have been several sicknesses reported over the past week on the ship. The ship’s track shows that the water is warmer nearer the equator than it is in South Africa, for example.


We hope that this new way of exploring the Old Weather data shows not only that the information being transcribed is coherent and useful, but also that your data really does go somewhere! We are often asked, here at the Zooniverse, what happens to your clicks and transcriptions. Here is a great way to explore the early results of the project and explore the history behind the science.

Other fun ships, to get you started, include HMS Inflexible, HMS Goliath and HMS M31.

[If you have a Mac, you can also grab Old Weather Voyages as a screensaver]

HMS Invincible: In Her Own Words


For Day 12 of the Zooniverse Advent Calendar I have created this image of a Royal Navy ship built up of the words from the HMS Invincible logs – captained by Zooniverse user clibby34. This is something we’ve been playing around – the idea of using the text from logs in interesting ways – with for Old Weather and we’d love your feedback on it. In the meantime you have a great image to play about with.

You can download the large version (16 megapixels) or the small version (4 megapixels).

Old Weather Author Poster


As part of the Zooniverse Advent Calendar we have been creating some author posters, as a thank you to our users. This poster shows the average global temperature over the Earth in April 2003 made up of the nearly 8,000 names of people who have taken part so far and agreed to have their name published.

You can download the larger version of the poster (7000 pixels, 19MB) or the smaller size (3500 pixels, 4.5MB). Do what you like with this post – print it, share it. Help spread the word about the wonderful Old Weather project! Good luck finding your name…

Snapshot of Old Weather

Stuart and I have been performing some routine maintenance of the Old Weather engines here at Zooniverse HQ (swabbing the decks etc). As we were messing about with the database rigging, we realised that we could quickly create a map of the current positions of the entire Old Weather fleet. So here it is: a snapshot of Old Weather right now.


You can see that almost all of the ships are to be found in water (phew!) and those that aren’t are often river boats. We cannot explain the boat in the middle of Greenland. We’d like to provide this kind of snapshot – a sort of Old Weather Live – as we currently do for Moon Zoo. Keep a lookout for updates along these lines.