Lighthouses of England & Wales

October 2020

How am I so late to the Mapbox custom styles party?

I stumbled on a dataset of lighthouses some months ago and knew it was intriguing but I wasn't sure how to do it justice. And then I discovered Mapbox Studio.

A dark design with beacons of light had been floating around my head but I wasn't sure how to avoid making "just another point map". Mapbox unlocked it by giving me to the freedom to create a custom map base style for use in Tableau.

The final visualation turned out like this and was featured as a Tableau "Viz of the Day":

Making this visualisation

I created a dark theme map in Mapbox and turned off all the standard layers and labels, replacing it with a very subtle dark terrain layer. It felt mysterious and a little dangerous, a lot like I imagine the sea at night. The final touch was adding tiny yellow points of light for each lighthouse in the Mapbox base layer.

This second step was important because Tableau doesn't (yet) support multiple layers. I wanted the lighthouses to appear both as a pinprick of light but also as a glow representing how far away they could be seen.

Tableau would let me plot the light or the glow, but not both. Plotting the light points in my Mapbox layer unlocked the effect I wanted. It only remained to plot the lighthouse lat/long as a glow in Tableau.

In essence this is a very simple point map, but the ability to add such fine control of a base map unlocked a real wow factor. A very pleasing result.

Data source: Science Direct

Tools: Mapbox Studio, Tableau Public