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50 Loneliest Islands in the World

Visualizing the distances between the most isolated pieces of land in the oceans

February 27, 2013

[This is a guest post by Kanny Yeung*, bringing us the details behind the 50 Loneliest Islands in the World infographic project]



The inspiration for this visualization began with Judith Schalansky’s Atlas of Remote Islands translated from German to English. The non-fiction features an essay and fifty short stories about each island, as well as extensive historical and geographical research.

My research process began by formulating the information from Schalansky’s Atlas into a spreadsheet – a repetitive process but a crucial step for organizing information. Next, a scoring system is implemented where an island is scored on the number of inhabitants, the overall land area, and the distance to the closest land. Firstly, the less number of inhabitants, the more lonely the island, therefore those islands receive lower scores.

Secondly, the smaller the overall land area, the less potential it has for inhabitation, therefore those islands also receive lower scores. Thirdly, the greater the distance to the closest land, the more remote, therefore the lower the score. These three scores are cumulated for each island to calculate the overall score – the lower the score, the lonelier the island.

There were a few anomalies; such as Laurie Island in the Antarctic Ocean: even though it is only 250km away from Deception Island, it scores low in this aspect because Deception Island (close to Antarctica) is also very lonely. Therefore, the score of Laurie Island was edited in order to reflect an accurate score.

The visualization is not exactly straightforward. The geographical positions are manipulated and divided into the five oceans; they show the relational geographic positions of the islands rather than the precise geographic location. Each island’s rank determines which circle it stands on, and its position within the sector along the line is determined by its location in relation to either the Equator (North to South) or the Prime Meridien (East to West). The least remote islands are visually located in the center, where the circles are smaller. This creates a visual representation of the islands’ loneliness since the smaller circles naturally situate islands visually closer together, so they look less lonely.

Each island is represented by a small yellow dot and hold a cream colored (solid) circle that maps the distance to the closest land. The greater the diameter of this circle, the further away the island is. The loneliest is the uninhabited Howland Island, 1640km away from Samoa, located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Schalansky links the fifty islands of her Atlas by including the distance between the two closest islands. I visualized this relationship by drawing a light-blue line with the distance in kilometers between two islands. Since the islands were not graphed geographically, it added another layer of contrast and became more informative to the viewer to know the actual distances in comparison to the ranked loneliness, as well as creating a coherent flow between the data.


50 Loneliest Islands in the World, an infographic poster by Kanny Yeung
(image:Kanny Yeung)
50 Loneliest Islands in the World, an infographic poster by Kanny Yeung
(image:Kanny Yeung)
50 Loneliest Islands in the World, an infographic poster by Kanny Yeung
(image:Kanny Yeung)
50 Loneliest Islands in the World, an infographic poster by Kanny Yeung
(image: Kanny Yeung)


*Kanny Yeung is currently studying Communication Design at Parsons The New School for Design in New York. You can find more of her work on Behance or on her  website (

Written by Tiago Veloso

Tiago Veloso is the founder and editor of Visualoop and Visualoop Brasil . He is Portuguese, currently based in Bonito, Brazil.