Geographic Information Systems (GIS)

A GIS is a computer package capable of assembling, storing, manipulating, and displaying geographically referenced information.
For the purposes of England’s Shipping the use of GIS enabled the data gathered from historic sources to be displayed on a map and for each recorded aspect or ‘attribute’ (type of vessel, date of loss etc) to be organised into different layers of information, which can be interrogated using digital tools to extract specific information. For example, the individual position of a known shipwreck will have many different attributes, all of which are related to its position, such as the date of loss, size, ship type, or cargo carried, each of which can be analysed individually or in combination. In this way it is possible to view the data at many different levels and identify patterns or coincidences that might not otherwise be discernible.
The GIS was intended to display a network of shipping routes to represent shipping traffic over time. In addition to this the point and/or area data relating to battles, anchorages, ports and casualty events at specific locations was also mapped. Such data was used to improve the mapping of data drawn from historical records for which locations had not been specified. The data also facilitated the observation of ‘hotspots’ of archaeological potential for different types of event in the seas around the UK.